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Marco Rubio…the other conservative candidate.

January 22, 2016

With all the frenzied rhetoric surrounding Donald Trump and Ted Cruz it is easy to forget that Marco Rubio was once hailed as a conservative shining light and a genuine threat to establishment politicians.

It’s interesting to see how real people view these three men. One of those people is “Sam”, a retired 20-year Army veteran.

Sam puts it like this:

“Imagine that each of these guys is leading a 10-man patrol deep in enemy territory. The patrol encounters a force of 100 enemy soldiers on the top of the highest hill in the region.

Trump would call Stars and Stripes to see if they had a cameraman in the area. While he’s waiting the enemy surrounds the patrol and kills them. Cruz would get up on the highest rock and order his men to charge the hill and take it at any cost. The entire patrol is reported KIA. Rubio would send a two-man recon team to survey the terrain and then call in close air support, positioning his men to mop up any enemy that survived the strike. His men suffer a few superficial wounds, but everybody goes home that night.

Which team leader would you rather follow?”

Which brings up the question, why is Rubio running third?

Often either overlooked or vilified is Rubio’s extensive legislative background.

A Tea Party favorite at one time, Senator Rubio was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000. He served for nine years, holding the position of House Speaker from 2006 through 2008,  before throwing his hat in the ring to run for the U.S. Senate, winning a seat in that august body in the 2010 election.

Once elected to that position, Senator Rubio for the most part followed a right-of-center conservative position, such as opposing expanded background checks for gun purchasers, but angered many on the far right by supporting positions that the Tea Party considered “centrist.”

Ironically, he also managed to tick off the so-called “establishment” whose members often referred to him as one of “those Tea Party upstarts.”

By contrast, Ted Cruz never served in any legislative body until his election in 2012 to the U.S. Senate, although he was a domestic policy advisor to President George W. Bush during Bush’s 2000 campaign. He was a law professor at the University of Texas and an employee of the U.S. Dept. of Justice as an associate deputy attorney general. Critics say that his largely legal and academic employment history may be why he doesn’t understand that his fellow GOP senators are not defendants standing in the docket but fellow legislators that can help him win political contests against the establishment.

Also connected to the Bush “dynasty”, Rubio was once considered a protégé of Jeb Bush, but has broken ranks with the former Florida governor on several issues. Unlike Cruz, his affiliation with the mainstream Republican governor was enough to give his political opponents a lot of fodder to attack his conservative credentials.

It would seem that when a mainstream Republican candidate like Jeb Bush, who is clearly not what the public is looking for in 2016, spends $20 million dollars to discredit the senator, he might not be your usual establishment candidate.

Maybe it’s just that seemingly inbred ability of the GOP to eat its own young. Why else would they be overlooking the Florida senator or “accepting that Trump will be the eventual nominee”?

It seems odd as well that when the country is going gaga over Trump’s ability to work with (or strong-arm) both sides of the aisle, Rubio is being vilified for having the same traits.

Some undecided voters that say they “want” to support Rubio think he is just not enough of a brawler to hold his own against the two frontrunners. While he certainly defends his positions, he does so with a sense of decorum that suggests a lack of passion to people looking for all-out warfare.

On the other hand, those who say that they would stay home rather than vote for the “two crackpots”  Senator Rubio offers a reasonable alternative to jumping off the far right cliff.

Of the three frontrunners, he came out early with specific proposals to explain not just the why but the how of effecting change in Washington. By contrast, Mr. Trump can’t seem to come up with a better plan than to put Carl Icahn in charge of economic policy and deport 12 million people, a plan which would seem to be logistically impossible.

For those who worry that no one can top Hillary Clinton in the South, they would do well to remember that of the top three candidates, only Marco Rubio has been part of plans to stop illegal immigration without wasting government resources on futile deportation plans that are mathematically impossible to achieve.

In addition to his membership on the Select Committee on Intelligence, he has authored a plan to make student debt less burdensome, wants to open veteran care to the private provider marketplace, and has impeccable credentials on national security issues.

If he has any serious weakness on the domestic front it may be that he isn’t backing some version of a one-size-fits-all flat tax.

In addition to his seats on many committees or sub-committees relevant to current national security events, he is also a member of many domestic policy groups. A few of those are the subcommitee on Human Rights and Global Women’s issues, the committee on Trans-national Crime and the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which has jurisdiction over the Small Business Administration.

With all that going for him, one wonders why he hasn’t achieved a higher public presence in the current campaign. He is certainly a vocal  defender of the Constitution, seems God-fearing enough for even the staunchest evangelical voter, and is no fan of the politics as usual crowd that comprises the establishment GOP.

He and Ted Cruz are nearly the same age (Rubio was born in 1971, Cruz in 1970)so the argument that he isn’t “seasoned” enough seem specious if not genuinely ridiculous.

Even given that the current front runner is such a media money maker, Senator Rubio doesn’t seem able to get his message out to the general public when he is a guest on media interviews. When he is being interviewed, the media folks tend to shy away from asking questions that allow him to answer with his strengths.

In an election cycle that seems more blockbuster movie hype than serious contest for the future of America,  Senator Rubio may well have to project more star power if he wants to wind up crossing the wire in first place. No one remembers who came in third in the Triple Crown.

Given his previous history, it seems like Rubio could deliver a punch if he had to do so. Given the state of the race up to now, it might be time to trade the leather driving gloves for a pair of 16 oz. training weight Everlasts.

From → op-ed

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