RSS

Republicans DO need a savior

February 12, 2013, at 4:34 PM
 

Who's better for the future of the Republican Party? Marco Rubio? Or Jeb Bush? BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins uses the microscopic world of wealthy Republican donors in South Florida to make a series of macroscopic points about the choice Republican mandarins will face very soon. For many, it will come down to whether their choice of Rubio or Bush would offset the ramifications for their private and personal concerns if a Republican doesn't win in 2016. Here is the way it looks from the Sunshine State:

On the cover of Time Magazine Rubio is the "Republican Savior." On Capitol Hill, he is the linchpin holding together a potentially historic effort to overhaul the nation's immigration system. And on Tuesday night, he will be his party's anointed standard-bearer when he goes on live TV and delivers the GOP's response to President Obama's State of the Union address in two languages.

But at the Biltmore, Rubio is just "Marco," a baby-faced freshman Senator with lots of potential — and a maddening reluctance to live up to it.

While the Senator's top-notch handlers have worked overtime to cast his recent foray into immigration reform as a courageous move by a conservative visionary, the portrait painted by his more impatient constituents is that of an overly cautious politician acutely aware of his national profile, and desperate not to tarnish his impeccable brand. [BuzzFeed]

Whereas Jeb Bush's largest liability is his last name, Rubio's liability is his lack of a substantive set of qualifications. But let's be honest: Our current president did not have the traditional pre-presidential stripes either. And maybe Republicans should take a lesson from that. Hillary Clinton was the "Jeb" in that 2008 scenario, complete with (at the time, what seemed like) a historical baggage problem. 

Republicans are of two minds about "saviors." Many are wary of embracing one, but others derive their entire political identity from Ronald Reagan. A savior figure may be the only short-term way to regain the presidency, though. The Republican demographic crunch will force a successful presidential candidate to create a sustainable coalition of disparate groups, each attracted to the candidate by something different, and incentivized to work for the candidate by the dream he inspires.  

If Hillary Clinton (or whichever Democrat wins the nomination in 2016) can replicate the Obama coalition of younger votes, minorities, college-educated whites, and single women, Republicans must build a counter-coalition from what remains. They'll be defending territory, too. As Jamelle Bouie notes in the most recent issue of The American Prospect, the Republican Solid South is more brittle than it seems because of African American outmigration from the North and from Latinos who are moving from Latin America: "Latino immigrants are flocking to Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina because they are agricultural centers with high demand for low-wage labor," for example. Republicans need to solve their Hispanic problem if they want to HOLD those states (and others, like Texas) in the future.

The Republican savior has to thread the needle: There is room for Republicans to grow their vote in the Rust Belt. But they've been unable to do so in their current configuration. The party's message and messengers aren't working well enough. A galvanizing candidate, someone who can shake up the chess board, someone who can attach new policies to existing demographic groups and grow them, is what Republicans need. That's why superficial qualities like Marco Rubio's youth and, yes, his ethnicity, matter more.

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Facebook

Twitter

RSS

Subscribe to the Week