The rumor mill is swirling with hints that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is about to suspend his presidential campaign. This writer is an unabashed supporter of Marco Rubio and believe (even to this day) that he would have been the best bet to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and that he would have made a fine, conservative President.
Unfortunately, there will be endless post-mortems on the Rubio campaign if these rumors are to come to fruition. Most of the blame, however, must fall on a gullible, illiterate electorate who is falling for the new-found conservatism of Donald Trump. If Rubio did anything wrong in this campaign, it is something that all candidates- including Ted Cruz- are guilty of: underestimating Trump and not attacking him earlier in the campaign.
Most will point to the New Hampshire debate and Rubio’s robotic response to Chris Christie and there may be some merit to that line of thinking. From my standpoint, it was the only bad moment by Marco Rubio in any debate. If anything, other than those few minutes, he proved that he is a debater on par with even Cruz. I would have loved to see him debate Hillary in the fall as I am sure he would have made short order of her. In that debate, in his defense I believe that Rubio thought the attack would come from Bush instead of Christie. There was so much ammunition he could have thrown back at Christie, but he didn’t. But that would underscore a tactical error on the part of Rubio and we cannot afford tactical errors in a general election campaign.
There are others- who I refer to as the Gang of Eighters- who will forever ad infinitum and ad nauseum bring up Rubio’s participation in the Gang of Eight immigration reform effort. These people need to (1) get a life, (2) let it go, and (3) fast forward to 2016. During that effort, I distinctly remember Rubio stating that the bill was not perfect and some things needed to be strengthened. Was he used by Democrats? Perhaps, maybe. But in 2016, we have people holding a grudge about something that never passed three years ago whether Cruz offered a poison pill amendment or the House simply did not want to take up the measure. Further, I do not know about others but I do not consider someone qualified or unqualified based on a single issue, vote, speech, or stance. If I did, then Cruz would never get my support. To too many people, immigration is the defining issue in this year’s election. But if that is one’s belief, then you are also likely to believe that Donald Trump invented the issue in June 2015.
Then there are the Cruzers- those who are so enamored with Ted Cruz that they could not even fathom a Rubio presidential candidacy. I know many Rubio supporters and many Cruz supporters. Among the vast majority of Rubio supporters, they invariably say that if not Rubio, then Cruz. Yet among the Cruz supporters too many say if not Cruz, then not Rubio either. Other than the Gang of Eighter mentality, the two candidates are not that far apart ideologically. To this writer, either would and could make a good, conservative President.
My ideal scenario for suspending his campaign is to make one last appeal to the electorate to vote against the charlatan who is highjacking the Republican Party and threatening conservatism in America. Rubio has the gift of rhetoric and he has charisma enough to pull this appeal off with aplomb. For maximum effect, my dream is that he does so during his closing statement in tonight’s debate.
But, there is one very important caveat. Should Rubio withdraw, there is the mistaken impression that his supporters will somehow magically go to Cruz. Likely, most of them will- more than 50% I venture. But, some will also go to Kasich and some will simply no longer care and go to no one. Among the latter group, at least we can safely say they will never go to Trump. Therefore, it is imperative that Rubio pledges support to Cruz to remove that ambiguity and openly endorses Cruz.
Will that be enough to allow Cruz to win Florida? That question is very “iffy” at best. What we do know is that Trump underperforms versus the polls while Cruz often overperforms. If those dynamics hold true and IF the Rubio supporters heed the call in Florida- especially the sizable Hispanic population- it could potentially turn this race upside down.
All of this is, of course, conjecture at this point. We do not know what the Rubio campaign internal polling indicates and what his intentions are today and after. But, to be defeated in your home state by a fake conservative like Donald Trump must weigh heavy on him and his political future. Hopefully, he is looking at the promise of the long term rather than the ambiguity and uncertainty of the short term.