A charismatic young first-term senator with with an unusual background and inspiring life story defies long odds to defeat a titan of American politics and win the presidency by capturing the country's imagination as a fresh face for a new generation.Um, yes, that quote could be targeted at Jeb Bush as well -- except that it appears under the bold red headline "This is What You Need To Tell Your Friends About Hillary Clinton" and under this graphic:
In 2008, that was Barack Obama. Now Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who turns 44 on Thursday, is using the same playbook -- nominally aimed at presumptive Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, but conveniently doubling as a case against top Republican rival Jeb Bush -- in a similarly audacious quest for the White House.
"No one is entitled to the presidency, and no candidate has the right to skip the process of laying out a vision simply because he or she has the deepest connections in Washington or the most money in big-dollar donations," Rubio wrote in a Wednesday post on his campaign website. "In this country, what your last name is, what life you were born into, or how much money you have does not determine who you can be, where you can go, or what opportunities you can enjoy." The ostensible target was Democratic front-runner Clinton. But the carefully gender-neutral pronouns and the anti-dynastic rhetoric suggested that Rubio intended his volley to do double duty.
In any case, Kapur tells us that Rubio has great potential because he's Hispanic and because he's making a "generational argument."
"Yesterday is over, and we are never going back," Rubio proclaimed in his announcement speech. The message underneath it is buttressed by recent history: the most recent three presidents -- Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton -- were all less politically experienced than their opponents, John McCain, Al Gore, and Bob Dole. Each time the relatively fresh face defeated a known quantity with decades of experience in Washington. Rubio's bet is Americans will chose youth over experience again.But if he's making a "generational argument" to the young, multicultural "coalition of the ascendant," then why, at least in the GOP, is his appeal primarily to old voters, at least according to a recent Pew poll (as I noted last week)?
Also note that a November 2014 Latino Decisions poll found that Rubio has a net unfavorable rating among Hispanic voters.
So why are people gushing over him? Why are Democrats gushing over him? Here's one Democrat quoted in Kapur's article:
"I would say that he [Rubio] is the Barack Obama of the Republican Party right now. His life story is captivating to people," Democratic strategist Steve McMahon said recently on Bloomberg TV's With All Due Respect, predicting Rubio will be the Republican nominee. He said the stories about his immigrant parents toiling so he could succeed "just melts your heart. It melts my heart. So I think he's got a very compelling story. And people are drawn to him."I think some people are drawn to him -- but not the people you'd expect. In his own party, the people who are drawn to his story of a being a Latino son of an immigrant maid and bartender are the elderly.
Why would they respond to Rubio? Maybe because some of them remember being white ethnic have-nots in their youth, or hearing stories about their white ethnic parents' and grandparents' struggles. Maybe they still have a lingering belief in the notion that America is a nation of immigrants, although, because they're conservatives, they think those immigrants should de-ethnicize themselves as much as possible and expect nothing from government.
I think younger Republicans don't romanticize the quest to assimilate -- to them, members of non-European ethnic groups are people you have to keep from taking your stuff.
I'm not sure what will happen if Rubio is the general-election candidate. But first he has to win the primaries. And I'm not sure that can happen, because I'm not sure how many white people in his party really find his story captivating.