Election 2016

10 Reasons Marco Rubio Would Lose in a General Election

A look at Rubio's resume reveals some gaping holes and inconsistencies.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cline/Shutterstock.com

The GOP elite appears ready to crown a new candidate: Marco Rubio. With the imminent decline and fall of Jeb Bush, the Republican establishment’s previous candidate of choice, signs of Rubio’s coming coronation are clear. There are reports of a "Rubio surge" in the press and in polls, new commitments from influential GOP donors like billionaire investor Paul Singer, and a growing list of key GOP establishment endorsements. Tuesday’s debate only bolstered the perception that Rubio, not Bush, represents the GOP's elite kingmakers. 

Unfortunately for Rubio and his growing base of influential backers, closer scrutiny of the Washington tea leaves portends fatal political consequences: Rubio cannot and will not win the presidency. There are many reasons Rubio is unelectable, but they can be boiled down to the following 10.

1. Rubio’s list of accomplishments doesn’t include anything that can be seen, heard or touched in the actual world. Unless there’s a broad conspiracy in the media to hide Rubio’s many and monumental accomplishments, the campaign dynamics will soon  reveal that there’s not much there, even on Rubio’s own campaign website: “As a U.S. Senator, Marco has led a bold offensive to institute innovative, conservative ideas to address these fundamental issues and to restore hope in the American Dream.” Not the kinds of concrete verbs and measureable achievements one would advise a recent college grad to put on his resume, much less a candidate for president. Noting Rubio's anemic record, Ted Cruz backers recently released a funny ad that asks, “Can anyone think of ANYTHING Marco Rubio’s ever done? Anything at all?” 

2. Between a Tea Party rock and a Latino hard place is no place for a serious candidate to be.Like the GOP, Marco Rubio finds himself trapped between two diametrically opposed forces that will loom even larger this election season: anti-immigrant, anti-Latino Tea Party activists and Latino voters. This quagmire already got Rubio into problems during his bid to gain the VP spot in 2012. Activists on both sides hammered him for adopting positions they felt were too close to the other, a situation that shows signs of getting even worse.

3. Rubio’s immigrant story will sink in a sea of national scrutiny. The self-described "son of exiles,” Rubio has centered his campaign narrative around the story of his immigrant parents, whom he said, “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” Unless history books are altered to reflect that Castro’s revolution actually took place before his parents arrived in the U.S. on May 27, 1956—a full two and a half years before the Cuban revolution took place—the boat of Rubio’s phony immigration story will sink under the national scrutiny the general election will surely bring.

4. Tea Party Troubles will leave the GOP's—and Rubio's—tent in tatters. The fight brewing between Rubio and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz reflects the core division that splits the party and that will burn the tent down by the end of the 2016 election. While Cruz continues to walk the talk of a die-hard Tea Partier, Rubio launched his successful bid to become Florida's junior senator of the Tea Party only to adopt the more "moderate" tones and policy positions of his former mentor-turned-frenemy, Jeb Bush. This alienated the Tea Party base  to the point where they are publicly attacking Rubio as a “sellout” on immigration and other issues, funding billboards denouncing “The Rubio-Obama Immigration Plan. Amnesty.” Though Rubio has since renounced previous positions on comprehensive immigration reform and other issues, many in the Tea Party base are supporting Cruz, who wasted no time highlighting these differences during Tuesday's debate. 

5. Rubio is even out-of-step with most Cuban voters. The majority (51%) of Cuban voters in the U.S. support President Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba, a majority that will continue to grow as younger Cuban voters move toward ending the embargo and other issues of the bygone era Rubio caters to.

6. Rubio won’t deliver anything near the almost 50% of the Latino vote the GOP needs to win the presidential race. Conventional political wisdom used to say that to win the presidency, a GOP candidate needed to win at least 40% of the Latino vote. Recent research now suggests that major demographic changes—growth of Latino voter base, aging white voter base, etc.—require a GOP candidate to secure at least 47% of the Latino vote. But Rubio's positions on many issues are far to the right of most Latinos: he recently came out in favor of deporting DREAMers, the Latino students fighting for legal status, and is confused on comprehensive immigration reform. Those stands are guaranteed to revive shouts of "No Somos Rubios" (“We’re not Rubios” and “We’re not white") heard from Latinos across the country during the last presidential election.

7. The GOP slugfest will leave the candidate bloodied and vulnerable. Rubio’s rise has already given way to increased and intensified attacks from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other candidates. By the time Rubio—or any other candidate—takes center stage against the Democratic opponent, he or she will look like the Walking Dead of U.S. politics.

8. Rubio can’t even balance his own checkbook. As Rubio waxes rhapsodic about his tax plan and other right-wing economic ideas of the “New American Century," reports of his disastrous personal finances will continue to dog him. Revelations of the fiasco have forced him to respond by calling himself an "average guy with debt." In his 2012 memoir, he confesses to suffering from a “lack of bookkeeping skills” and an “imperfect accounting system.” While such statements may engender sympathy from some voters, others may reject economic ideas that will further impoverish the average American and have difficulty identifying with an "average guy" who still managed to buy himself an $80,000 luxury speed boat. Rubio's calls for a balanced budget amendment under these conditions will be fun to watch.

9. Rubio may not even deliver Florida. Electoral dynamics in Rubio’s home state have turned Florida into a tossup state in 2016. Changing demographics, a history of highly contested elections and the rise of the non-Republican Florida Latino voter means that Rubio, who has only had to prove his statewide election muster once, may not even deliver his home state.

10. Rubio will lose the beisbol vote. Rubio's continued stubborn opposition to ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba puts him squarely against discussions initiated since the Obama administration announced its normalization of relations with the island. These discussions include finding new ways for Cuban baseball players, most of whom must enter the U.S. via human trafficking networks, to play in the Major Leagues. Denying the country’s favorite sport talent will not sound very inviting when America’s favorite pastime ramps up just before the election season ends.

Roberto Lovato is a writer and research associate at the Center for Latino Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley. 

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