At CPAC last week, Sen. Marco Rubio finished sixth in the presidential straw poll, behind Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie, and Gov. Scott Walker and Rick Santorum (tied for fifth). Just a year before, he came in second. Depending on who you read, he's either completely out of the running for 2016 or poised to make a huge comeback. Today, Josh Green at Bloomberg Businessweek argues for the comeback.
Green says Rubio is recasting himself as a "policy wonk," which, based on his recent speeches, is true. He's laid out his foreign policy ideas at CPAC and talked economic policy at Google's headquarters. Green notes that Rubio's become pretty hawkish on foreign policy, "offering a conspicuous counterpoint to Paul and President Obama. He’s become a fount of policy proposals with a plan, or at least a promise of one, for just about everything." While his "transformation from rock star to professor is a work in progress," it's a respectable strat. Green argues,
As presidential strategies go, this is the opposite of campaigning through dramatic stunts, such as Cruz’s 21-hour speech protesting federal funding for Obamacare. It’s a self-conscious nod to the old notion that ideas, expertise, and experience are prerequisites for the White House—and a bet that, despite today’s poll numbers and headlines, voters will eventually come to agree.
Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. But just yesterday, Daniel Larison at Politico stomped all over that idea, writing explicitly, "don't call it a comeback." Larison, who's a senior editor at libertarian-leaning American Conservative, argues,
Rumors of Sen. Marco Rubio’s political resurrection have been greatly exaggerated. The Florida Republican was left for dead last year after his bruising and failed attempt to promote a Senate immigration deal, and the truth is he’s still got one foot in the political grave.
Larison thinks that Rubio's rebranding as a foreign policy hawk is the exact opposite of what the party wants — constituents are more concerned about the NSA than they are about Russia. (Paul has caught on to this, clearly.)
"There will always be a dedicated group of foreign policy hawks in the GOP who will welcome Rubio’s criticisms of foreign dictators and his alarmist rhetoric about the 'spread of totalitarianism,' but they have less influence with the party’s base than at any time in the last 20 years," Larson argues.
So Rubio's strategy is either exactly right or exactly wrong — choose one. Perhaps the biggest indicator that this guy is in the race is the fact that he's still being written about.