If you’ve been paying attention to politics this week, you’ll note that both Hillary Clinton and Senator Marco Rubio announced their respective bids for the White House. Both were widely anticipated.
The reality of Senator Rubio’s campaign for the nation’s highest office may not actually be to reach the top in 2016. Rather, a shrewd calculator, Rubio has proven himself to become prominent on Hispanic issues. While Rubio has not engendered much support among conservative groups because of his support of bipartisan legislation aimed at fixing America’s immigration system, Rubio has been a staunch opponent of America’s normalization of relations with Cuba.
While Rubio is likely on the wrong side of history with respect to the Cuba issue and his immigration fix went nowhere, his plans were not centered around actual success on either issue. Rather, Rubio has made a decided overture to the Hispanic and first-generation Latino communities on behalf of the Republican Party.
While there are nationalist elements in the Party that are strongly resistant to accommodation of immigrants and people who are demographically diverse, such prejudice is nonsensical especially given the reality that in order to maintain any hold on power, politics will need to embrace the Hispanic and Latino populations.
Rubio, himself the product of immigration, is a testament to the American dream. While his policies and politics may be firmly rooted in the “moderate” perspective of the political spectrum, his personal credentials remain impeccable. It is difficult not to make the comparison of Rubio to Barack Obama in 2008. Both were first-term Senators making runs at the White House after having been in their state legislatures. Both claim a minority heritage. Both are young and charismatic.
Rubio would like to shy away from comparisons with Obama, who is severely disliked on the Republican side. Obviously, Republicans who had criticized Obama’s lack of experience before he took office feel vindicated in the myriad of scandals and problems his administration has faced. However, if the same individuals now support Rubio, they run the risk of having to differentiate support of Rubio from the confirmed problems with Obama. Though Rubio has put forward that he was Speaker of the Florida House while Obama was a mere “back bencher” before either ran for Senate, this differentiation is thin by political standards. Rubio’s supporters will just have to grin and bear the comparison: Rubio and Obama are similar in that department, but you need to take our word that he won’t be a repeat of the disastrous inexperience of Obama.
Among the candidates currently in the race on the Republican side, Rubio can avoid criticism for lack of experience. Both Senators Paul and Cruz have the same amount of time in their Senate seats as does Rubio. Rubio, if you give credit for time in the State legislature, has more legislative experience than the eye surgeon from Kentucky or the attorney from Texas. However, with the looming entrance of sitting and former governors, Rubio will need to quickly define himself outside of his experience or lack thereof.
The biggest threat to Senator Rubio in the race for the White House is former Florida Governor, and Rubio’s friend, Jeb Bush. While politics is full of nice stories about mentorship, Rubio and Bush are nothing but rivals now. Bush also stands in the way of Rubio’s true aim: the Vice Presidency.
Marco Rubio understands that a crowded field, especially one that is full of establishment governors with two terms under their belts, could quickly crowd out his primary support. Without the Tea Party support of a Senator Cruz, or the libertarian baseline of Senator Paul, Rubio has to create a base out of rank-and-file right-of-center Republicans. This seems particularly unlikely.
However, Rubio brings an impressive suite of credentials to a potential nominee. Rubio is a sitting Senator from a swing state who polls well with an important demographic. He’s engaging and young. For someone like a Governor Walker or Governor Kasich, Marco Rubio is at the top of the list to be Vice President.
The problem for Rubio is Jeb Bush. While the two may get along and be friends, if Bush is the nominee, there’s no chance that Rubio can get a place on the ticket. Doubling up candidates from the same state is not going to happen, and would be bad politics if it did. Bush, also popular among Florida’s Hispanic and Latino population would gain nothing from Rubio.
Therefore, Marco Rubio’s biggest early challenge is to make sure that Jeb Bush does not become the Republican nominee. For all the other news stories about how well Rubio is doing in this-or-that poll, the truth of the matter is that Rubio’s true aim is to gather experience as Vice President and then run for President as the presumptive nominee in either 2020 (if Hillary wins, Rubio’s time as the Vice Presidential nominee would mean he would be an immediate front-runner for the nomination) or 2024. His youth means that there are at least three or four more election cycles where he can be within striking range of the Oval Office.
It’s important to note that Rubio would certainly take the spot at the top of the ticked if it were offered in 2016. However, as calculating as Rubio has been for his time in the Senate, it looks unlikely that his real aim is for the Presidency. It remains to be seen what will happen as the events in the campaign pan out.