We’ve long mocked the foreign policy credentials and domestic rhetoric of Florida’s Junior Senator, but it appears at this point in time, Marco Rubio is making a very calculated, somewhat quiet yet effective comeback on the national stage. Rubio has risen from being falling star, dead Presidential candidate and potentially endangered one-term Senator to top-tier Republican Presidential candidate again and potential 2018 Florida Gubernatorial front-runner (not that he is talking about that currently) in just a few short months. Of course, in the previous year Rubio had fallen from national conservative hero and Presidential hopeful to marginal political figure who despite the affection of the national press corp wasn’t being taken seriously.
So what account for the Rubio revival? A few factors:
- Rubio maintains some tea party credibility when it comes to issues other than immigration
- The national media has been willing to indulge Rubio’s radical foreign policy views; in recent weeks President Obama’s Mideast policies have come under intense scrutiny and among potential Republican Presidential candidates nobody’s rhetoric has been more consistent and strident than Rubio. This having been said, Rubio’s views are dangerous and were he elected and failed to modify his views, the United States could find itself once again in multiple armed conflicts.
- Foreign policy is also important because George W. Bush’s policies in his last two years resembled closely many of the Obama policies. Jeb Bush has been tainted both by his brother’s hawkishness in the 2001-2006 time period and his failure to reign in Iran or Russia from a conservative perspective in the 2006-2009 time period. So for Republicans, particularly strident foreign policy ones, Rubio represents a safer landing than Bush or Governor Scott Walker, whose views on international affairs have not been that well articulated.
- The GOP mainstream realizes they must handle the immigration issue but Rubio isn’t s outspoken from a perspective that is considered a liberal one by many Republicans as Bush. Still, he isn’t taking the hard right stand on the issue either. Immigration looked to have severed the ties between Rubio and the Tea Party, but today it is possible with Bush appearing to be further left, Rubio perhaps represents a safer middle ground for those who don’t want to cede the issue but also must placate the hard right.
- Right place, right time – Rubio has been a lucky pol. He made numerous mistakes in 2013 and 2014 but in 2015 as those around him seeking the nomination start to fade away or say silly things, the Florida Senator is being incredibly disciplined in his statements.
- Perhaps irrelevant for 2016, but for 2018 the shift in leadership at the RPOF is thought by some in Tallahassee circles to be helpful for Rubio.
Rubio is unlikely to be nominated in 2016 – however if he can make a strong showing in early primaries despite vacating his Senate seat, a 2018 Gubernatorial run could set him up as a leading Presidential contender for 2020 or 2024. After all, in the GOP you don’t get nominated without running previously for President, unless you happen to be the son of George Herbert Walker Bush.