Don’t get me wrong: his campaign up to this point has been rather brilliant, taking an established politician and selling him not only to the Florida GOP but to national conservatives (grassroots and establishment alike) as the true, “outsider” principled conservative choice for Florida and the Tea Party. Which he is, I trust.
But something’s shifted. The awkward grammar of his ubiquitous web ads are spelling out something more and more starkly partisan. “Conservative,” “Principled,” “Ideas,” etc. now all easily translate into merely “Republican” with a capital “R.” While Crist gains in the polls and could even become a true front-runner in the next few weeks, Rubio’s campaign–and this might just be my news- and commentary-scavenging subconscious here–is appearing desperate, almost on the verge of all-out slander and begging (and being sidelined) as their national message/statewide primary victory is diluted as he’s no longer the obvious “it” candidate for the national grassroots and he’s no longer cleansing the party itself.
Perhaps that’s it, and his successful messaging was built into the fact that he was keeping the party principled. Or perhaps he’s just not appealing to the wider electorate (I doubt that–take a look at some recent Floridian Senators and tell me Rubio doesn’t look like a breath of fresh air).
Or perhaps the gulf oil spill is the new bailout, and Rubio just hasn’t been outspoken enough on it (while Crist is on the front lines).
But one thing that’s clear if he’s going to beat Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek in November is that the messaging has to change. He’s got to make headlines again (at least around the blogosphere) with bold ideas, and not just sell himself as the guy with bold ideas.
Come on, Rubio, we know you’ve got it.