Marco Rubio is going to be the Republican nominee to be the next president of the United States of America. Good to get that off my chest. I’ve been ready to say that for a few weeks now, but Wednesday’s debate solidified the Florida senator, currently a solid third in polls, as the man to beat.
Getting the nomination is a sort of Goldilocks and the Three Bears scenario. A candidate must be conservative, but not too conservative. A candidate can’t be too ingrained in party politics, nor be a total outsider. A candidate needs to be youthful, but also have experience. And, above all, a candidate must be likable. Rubio seems to be the only candidate that passes this litmus test.
In a field of around 15 candidates, Rubio’s competition was nevertheless limited. Take any candidate and apply the above properties. Mike “I want to eradicate cancer” Huckabee? Too conservative. Chris Christie? Not likable. Donald Trump and Ben Carson? Top two in polls, but from too far outside the party. Ask these questions of the rest of the contenders, and Rubio is spat out as the only viable candidate.
But I saw Jeb Bush as a real threat to win the nomination. Yes, Bush is as ingrained in Washington as traffic or distinctly mediocre sports teams. However, the ex-governor of Florida has a massive financial advantage; Bush’s campaign and Super PACs raised almost triple Rubio’s through June of this year, according to the New York Times. Bush, though, continued his disappointing decline with one of the poorest debate performances in recent memory.
When he was asked about DraftKings, the daily fantasy sports site, Bush bragged about his 7-0 fantasy football team lead by Rob Gronkowski. Christie of all people reminded the audience, to much applause, how ridiculous the conversation matter was. Bush’s tame attempt to connect with fantasy playing Republicans everywhere flopped more than Demarco Murray (his fantasy owners will understand).
Bush had earlier tried to attack Rubio’s decision to miss the majority of Senate votes to campaign. Rubio had a somewhat obviously pre-thought out response, comparing himself to John McCain, another senator who missed votes to campaign. Rubio embarrassed a desperate-looking Bush. When the moderators attacked Rubio’s age (he’s 44), he pulled out an equally well-articulated but clearly rehearsed answer on “the time [being] now.”
Rubio partnered with Ted Cruz (a national champion debater at Princeton) to absolutely lambast the CNBC moderators, accusing them of biases and double standards against conservatives. To some extent, they had a point. The moderators asked at one point whether Trump was running a “a comic book version” of a presidential campaign. Regardless, this garnered the biggest applause of the night. The Republican National Committee even decided to cease cooperation with NBC, who shares a parent company with CNBC and was scheduled to host the next GOP debate in February.
As a Floridian, Rubio makes sense for the Republicans. The GOP stands little chance at winning the elections without Florida’s 29 electoral votes. I just thought the Floridian to do it for them would be Bush. But it will be Rubio vs. Clinton. And we still have a year to go.