Accused of everything from being a part of the establishment to being a robot, Marco Rubio has somehow defied the odds and outperformed expectations. It’s a credit to Rubio’s bona fides that all the right people (read: The Media) are attacking him as too much of a robot now so soon after they praised his ability to pull out a personal win in Iowa.
However, this is not to say Rubio is without his flaws: his support of the Gang of Eight bill will continue to plague him throughout the campaign. He was clearly not prepared to engage Chris Christie on Saturday night, which led to his repetition of the exact same talking point instead of meaningful counters to the aggressive and lashing out New Jersey governor.
This all reveals Rubio’s biggest flaw, though it is certainly not a campaign-ending one: Marco Rubio is naive.
We as a country would do incredibly well to have Rubio as our president, and that is without using Barack Obama as the standard by which to grade him. However, his first major initiative in the U.S. Senate showed his naivete on the federal stage in two ways.
The first problem is that he trusted creatures of Washington to see his vision and help him develop a bill that would do exactly that, and even when it became clear that his compatriots on the Gang of Eight were simply using a youthful, Hispanic Republican to push a bad idea, he stuck with it, hoping he could still fix it somehow. The idea was abandoned once it finally dawned on him that those he was working with did not have his interests in mind.
The second way is that he trusted that something could be done comprehensively, a lesson he has very clearly learned, even saying so on Saturday night.
His naivete also shows in his debate performance on Saturday night. He is foolishly falling back to the idea of debate as one would see in the U.S. Senate rather than a presidential debate stage, and it will continue to hurt him if he doesn’t work on speaking more extemporaneously. His personal stories, his ability to connect, and his clear knowledge of foreign policy and military affairs work in his favor, but in not having an off-the-cuff way of dealing with Chris Christie, he showed he is not prepared yet for the likes of Hillary Clinton.
This is why, at the moment, Ted Cruz is the better of the two candidates (Note: This is not an endorsement). Cruz is simply better at having the types of counters necessary to combat a hostile debate opponent like Christie. However, it does work in favor of Rubio to have this realization (hopefully) hit him early in the primary season. If he can survive New Hampshire with good results, the experience will help shape him down the road, and we will almost surely get the Cruz-Rubio showdown most of us want and the conservative movement deserves at last.