Marco Rubio, the one-time hope of the Republican Party establishment who gathered many of it’s endorsements, bowed — or crashed and burned, depending on your assessment — out of the Republican primary on Tuesday, following his pronounced loss to frontrunner Donald Trump in his home state of Florida.
His original 3-2-1 strategy (third place in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, first in South Carolina) had become a hodgepodge of primary medals that would’ve been more useful melted down and recast as a crowbar to threaten Floridian Republicans with.
Rubio’s end began a long time ago, though, when he not only stopped winning but also decided to give up the mantle of decency and focus on policy that he assumed his base would want, pre-Trump.
Instead, Rubio, who had been heralded as the JFK of the Republican party for being young, Hispanic, and conservative, succumbed to the rhetorical tropes of the man who will ultimately destroy his party, Donald Trump.
Indeed, it seems that the more politically incorrect and derogatory Trump is of his competitors, the more his supporters see him as “authentic.” As Jeffery Herf summarized in The American Interest:
“His followers took pleasure in his attacks on [Jeb] Bush not primarily because they disagreed with this or that policy, but because Trump gave them a way to dismiss Bush’s obvious strengths. Bush’s style, his intelligence, the size of his vocabulary, his seriousness and ability to speak knowledgeably about the details of problems—these were a constant challenge to those like Trump who lack the ability to do any of these things. Such strengths stir resentment and envy, reminding listeners of what they themselves do not understand. Trump’s insults made it possible for his followers to dismiss their discomfort over not understanding policy questions. They could be “big guys” despite their ignorance. This was very liberating.”
This may be reductive, but it’s telling: when Rubio made his last ditch effort to combat Trump, he emulated Trump’s style, embarking down the rhetorical road less eloquently taken.
Take, for example, the morning after a Republican debate in which Rubio and Ted Cruz tried their best to swing back at the Trump juggernaut:
Somewhat ironically, Rubio concluded his statements with a promise to campaign across “all fifty states, to all fifty territories in this country, if I have to get in my pickup truck and drive to all 50 states that remain, I will never allow the conservative movement to be taken over by a con artist. “
That’s beside the point. At least, it is now. As one of the biggest disappointments of this election cycle, Rubio is a walking demonstration of how resoundingly Republican primary voters have rejected the establishment candidates.
After resorting to bathroom “humor,” making jokes about foreign workers writing Trump’s tweets, and the aforementioned hand size incident, Rubio said he regretted these comments, noting “ I don’t want to be that.”
Not long after violence erupted at a Donald Trump rally in Chicago, Rubio offered some of the most pointed and critical commentary from a Republican candidate on Trump and the election:
His opening words give us a glimpse at what Republican primary voters are rejecting: attempts to soothe the anger of an electorate by actually attempting to make progress despite it. Rubio, a seriously flawed candidate in his own right, tried to represent a new outlook for the GOP, but instead fell into ever widening the chasm that now exists within the Republican Party.
Marco Rubio announced yesterday that he doesn’t have a future in politics, at least for now: He doesn’t want to be vice president. He’s not running for re-election in his current Senate seat. He is an ideology without a movement, and at least in that regard, he’s not alone.
Photo: Marco Rubio announces the suspension of his presidential campaign during a rally in Miami, Florida March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri