Tuesday, April 21, 2015


In The New York Times today, David Brooks looks at Marco Rubio and sees starbursts:
... it’s probably right to see Rubio as the second most likely nominee, slightly behind Jeb Bush and slightly ahead of Walker.

He is, for starters, the most talented politician in the race....

Rubio gives a very good speech. He has an upbeat and pleasant demeanor. He has a great personal story. His policy agenda is more detailed and creative than any of his rivals. He has an overarching argument -- that it is time for a new generation to reform and replace archaic structures.
Here's my favorite passage from the Brooks column:
So there is beginning to be a certain charisma to his presidential campaign. It is not necessarily showing up in outright support. The first-term senator still shows up only with 8.3 percent support on the Real Clear Politics average of 2016 Republican presidential nomination polls, leaving him tied for 5th in the field. But primary voters are open to him; the upside is large.
Did you follow that? Rubio has charisma -- apparently! The polls don't actually show that he has charisma, but it sure seems as if he really has it!

Sorry, David, that's not how it works. Either the voters are feeling the Rubio magic or they aren't. You can't have hypothetical charisma. Voters can't be sort of electrified.

I'm seeing a similar misunderstanding of charisma in this Bloomberg article by Tim Alberta titled "Marco Rubio Is the Rock Star They Feared He Would Be." At first, you get the sense from Alberta that Rubio was really killing it in New Hampshire last week, especially in the eyes of one emblematic voter:
The speech had ended and the room was clearing out, but Barry Devine lingered near the podium, gazing at the stage. The 73-year-old Republican activist, in a suit and Vietnam veteran cap, had just heard a young senator deliver the dinner address at the New Hampshire GOP's spring kickoff event. And it left him mesmerized -- even a bit emotional....

"I'll just say this: We've got to bring this country back. I didn't fight in Vietnam for nothing," Devine said. Nodding to Rubio, he added, "And I think he could do it."

Everything about Rubio -- his policy prescriptions, his family history, his "youthful energy" -- resonated with Devine. But what made Rubio his favorite speaker in a day of appearances from Republican 2016 contenders was something less tangible. "The most important thing," Devine said, "is that he really loves his country."
And yet, several paragraphs later, we learn this:
Even the veteran activist Rubio wowed with his Friday speech, wouldn't commit. "I like Rand. I like Scott Walker. I even like, believe it or not, Rick Perry -- he's really done his homework," said Devine, who, after making 7,000 calls for Scott Brown's 2014 Senate campaign, will be a sought-after volunteer for any of the presidential hopefuls. "I don't want to close the door on anyone yet."
You see:
... there is a palpable sense that none of the buzz around Rubio -- his talent, his upside, his emotional appeal -- may wind up translating into concrete support. He has for months been polling in the single digits both nationally and in early nominating states. He has made no known staff hires in Iowa. And in New Hampshire, despite his sparkling debut, even those people singing his praises were quick to emphasize that they aren't prepared to pick a side.
Rubio isn't a "rock star." He's a contestant on American Idol or The Voice who's talented and pitch-perfect and undoubtedly appealing while he's on stage, but who's utterly lacking in the edge that actually make someone a "rock star." He generates enthusiasm, but no one's quite ready to get a Rubio tattoo yet.

After he announced his candidacy, Rubio got a bounce in the CNN poll and is now in a virtual tie with Scott Walker and Rand Paul for second place. (CNN has Jeb Bush still leading with 18%, then Walker with 12% and Rubio and Paul with 11%.) Now, remember: Walker hasn't had his official announcement yet. Nor does he have Jeb Bush's name recognition, or the family ties of Jeb or Rand Paul. He's still near the front based on a two-month-old speech at CPAC.

Why? Because Republican voters expect him to kick liberal ass. As for Jeb, the GOP voters in this poll who like him presumably think he's just another kid from a dynasty, but it's their party's dynasty -- being a Bush, he'll have the muscle to move the country in a Republican direction.

Do Republican voters think Rubio has the juice to do what they want him to do and kick the asses they want him to kick? Because if he never gives off that sense of power, then he's probably peaking right now.


Victor said...

I love how our conservatives think that Obama looked like a deer in the headlights when he met with Putin.

If Rubio met him, he'd look like an amoeba right next to a whale's open mouth.

But, our conservatives never fail to project all of their imagined macho toughness, on whoever their candidate is.

Rubio ain't ready for prime-time!
And if you look behind the 'aw shucks" engaging smile, you see an empty-suit with an even emptier head.

But I'll say this, the boy's the blank chalkboard that Bobo, Glenn, and the others, can use to fill-up to meet their specifications.

aimai said...

My personal favorite in that Brook's paen is "the upside is large." I think what he means is "there's nowhere to go but up" given that Rubio remains basically an unknown, unloved, unliked, and unthought of by the majority of his own party's primary voters. This is taking "there must be a pony in here somewhere" to new depths of absurdity. Yes, if your preferred candidate is polling somewhere slightly higher than "who?" you can anticipate doubling, or even trebling, his near zero support!

retiredeng said...

Ah. Typical David Brooks. He didn't have anything to write about so he wrote about nothing. It's all about "tone" with Brooks.

KenRight said...

It was enough for Brooks whose son is in the IDF that Rubio threatened Israel's most powerful enemy.