The other night on Red Eye (my occasional guilty pleasure), during a discussion about whether or not Chris Christie would get into the presidential race, someone asked a question to the effect of, “Who else is there?” Host Greg Gutfeld threw out (as sort of an afterthought), “Marco Rubio?” There was a pause in the banter and then everyone moved on.
I nodded my head in agreement and then I thought, “Why can’t we, as conservatives, shamelessly beg a candidate to run?” If the RINOs and GOP establishment can drool all over themselves over Chris Christie and turn Christie Watch 2011 into a 24-hour Reality TV event, why shouldn’t we do the same and demand a candidate that we really want?
While I realize that some are happy with the slate of Republican candidates, many are not. I am not. Romney has never governed as a conservative and he has a long history of championing causes better aligned with the Democratic Party. Johnson and Paul are Libertarians and belong in that party, not the GOP. I’m very concerned that Perry cannot recover and regain the turf he lost in recent debates. I’m even more concerned that he is not up to the rhetorical challenges of a modern-day campaign. Cain’s lack of a clear foreign policy nearly disqualifies him in my mind (although ABO still applies). Bachmann has had serious, almost unrecoverable gaffes in recent weeks and everyone tells me that Santorum will not be the nominee.
Which leaves our party and the conservative movement longing for…someone else. We need someone who is both an ideological conservative and who can beat Obama. In other words, someone who can effectively articulate conservatism – and mean it. At the same time, the nominee must have some crossover appeal and be a magnet for money.
Nearly every conservative I know thinks Marco Rubio (R-FL) could be that candidate – but not this time around. It’s too soon for him to peak. I disagree about the time frame. First, we don’t have time to wait around while either Obama or a RINO plunges our country toward the abyss. Yes, Rubio is young; he hasn’t paid his dues by becoming an entrenched 20-year Patriarch of the Senate. But who really wants that? If Rubio hunkers down in the senate for 8 years before running for president, one of two things will happen. He will either become the kind of crony establishment Republican we all despise, or he will hold to his conservative values and be marginalized by his colleagues in the senate and the GOP leadership. Neither of those scenarios is a path to the 2020 presidential nomination. (Will we even have a country in 2020?)
Yesterday I re-watched Sen. Rubio’s speech at the Reagan Library (see below). I was inspired all over again and had a big lump in my throat. (I’m not generally a lumpy throat kind of gal). His defense of the free-enterprise system and American exceptionalism draw such a sharp contrast to Obama’s mantra that the men seem to belong to a different species altogether. Rubio’s story of his Cuban exile parents and grandparents is the polar opposite of Obama’s immigrant family story. While Obama and his family found reasons to blame and disparage America, Rubio’s family was in awe of the opportunity here and taught their children to work hard out of gratitude for the blessings of liberty.
In addition to (obviously) being able to appeal to Hispanic voters, Rubio is uniquely positioned to be the game-changer in the Social Security debate. Here’s what he said at the Reagan Library:
“Now, I personally believe that you cannot make changes to these programs for the people that are currently in them right now. My mother just – well she gets mad when I say this. She is in her eighth decade of life and she is on both of these programs. I can’t ask my mom to go out and get another job. She paid into the system. But the truth is that Social Security and Medicare, as important as they are, cannot look for me how they look for her.
“My generation must fully accept, the sooner the better, that if we want there to be a Social Security and a Medicare when we retire, and if we want America as we know it to continue when we retire, then we must accept and begin to make changes to those programs now, for us…
“…These changes will not be easy….It will be hard. It will actually really call upon a specific generation of Americans, those of us, like myself, decades away from retirement, to assume certain realities -– that we will continue to pay into and fund for a system that we will never fully access -– that we are prepared to do whatever it takes in our lives and in our generation so that our parents and grandparents can enjoy the fruits of their labor and so that our children and our grandchildren can inherit the fullness of America’s promise.
“But you see, every generation of Americans has been called to do their part to ensure that the American promise continues. We’re not alone; we’re not unique; we’re not the only ones. In fact, I would argue to you that we have it pretty good.
“And yet I think it’s fully appropriate that those of us raised in Ronald Reagan’s America are actually the ones who are being asked to stand up and respond to the issues of the day. For we, perhaps better than any other people who have ever lived in this nation, should understand how special and unique America truly is.”
Rubio, who was in 4th grade when Reagan became president, can make the argument that he will leave Social Security untouched for his mother, but will call on his generation to “take one for the country.” It’s a tantalizing, iconic image and perhaps the only way we win this debate and reform these programs. Seniors will go for it and young people will as well, because (not to be cynical or anything…) it won’t make a hill of beans of difference in their lives right now other than to make them feel good about helping their country.
Rubio has also proven that he’s able to appeal to a wide variety of voters. He trounced both Charlie Crist (RINO-turned-I) and Democrat Kendrick Meek in the 3-way Senate race in 2010, receiving nearly half of the votes cast in the swing-state election.
Rubio raised $24 million for that race and has $500K remaining. If he were to jump in the race tomorrow, I suspect the big spenders who have been holding back would begin throwing money at him.
He’s been on the national scene for the last two years and is at the top of his game. He has a national following including 245,000 Facebook fans and 50,000 Twitter followers. Impressive numbers for a U.S senator. Just for the sake of comparison, my senator, Rob Portman (R-OH) has 27,000/8,000 Facebook/Twitter followers respectively.
One other factoid/trend I’d like to throw out: If 2008 showed us anything, it demonstrated that the country has no appetite (shallow that it may be) for candidates who are grumpy old men. As many have noted here on Red State, part of Herman Cain’s appeal is his positive attitude and outlook. In 2010, in addition to young, earnest enthusiastic Senator Rubio, we found conservatives like Nikki Haley, Kristi Noem, and Rand Paul are the new face of the GOP, replacing the overweight white guy with big hair.
In Ohio, a 32-year old Iraq war veteran and state representative ran for State Treasurer. In a stunner, Josh Mandel beat the incumbent and raked in 2 million votes, making him the top vote-getter in the entire state. Governor John Kasich only pulled in 1.8 million votes. What State Treasurer does that?
My point is that this is the conservative trend in the country. People will put their money and efforts behind an ideological conservative with a solid record, even if the record is not that long. In Ohio, it’s possible Mandel will be our next Senator. He will likely challenge Sherrod Brown and he will likely win. Mandel has already raise over $2 million and hasn’t even officially announced he’s running.
After my Red Eye revelation, I decided to write this diary, thinking there were probably others who felt the same way. I started writing it Wednesday night, but put it aside and went to bed. I flipped on the radio early Thursday afternoon to Rush asking essentially the same question. Why shouldn’t Rubio run? He said, “Rubio would walk away with the election.” He would “win in a walkover.” Heh. If nothing, Rubio getting in the race would make Karl Rove, et al curl up in the fetal position and suck their thumbs.
If you haven’t watched Rubio’s speech at the Reagan Library, take a look (and reminisce about some of Reagan’s great speeches). Rubio strikes the same chords. Transcript here.