Why Marco Rubio Is Not the Republican Obama

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio
Photo: Gage Skidmore's Flickr | CC2.0

Marco Rubio is scheduled to speak at the Freedom Tower today, and news that he's told donors he will run for president is already out of the bag. Comparisons to the current president have followed Rubio since he burst on to the national scene in 2010. He's been dubbed "The Republican Obama," a young politician of minority status with a knack for great speeches and revving up the base. With Rubio now also announcing a run for president with not even a full term in the Senate under his belt, this comparisons seem even more apt. 

But don't rush to accept the claim that he's the GOP's answer to Obama. Rubio's story is different in key ways, and the dynamics of this election cycle are much different than they were during Obama's rise to the White House. 

Here's why Rubio is no Republican Obama:

Rubio Has No Single Stance as Key to His Campaign as Obama Did With Iraq
In 2008, America was a country mired in a war it had come to deeply regret. Barack Obama was the only viable candidate on either side of the aisle who had been against that war from the beginning. That one simple stance, regardless of his age, race or experience, elevated him from interesting political wunderkind to Oval Office material. 

The dynamics of this election are much different. There's no issue that is defining at this moment as Iraq was in 2008. To even compare the rightwing outrage over Obama's most controversial legacy, Obamacare, to Iraq regret would not only be factually wrong but trivializing of the severity of war. Even still, Rubio isn't the only Republican opposed to Obamacare. They all are. He has no single stance of great importance that differentiates him from anyone else in the Republican field in quite the way Obama's stance on Iraq separated from Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in 2008. Biographically he may be interesting, but politically he's mostly the same as his competitors. 

Marco Rubio's Speeches Only Stir Up Right-Wingers
Like Obama, Rubio has been lauded for his skill at the pulpit. Though, Rubio's best speeches have been in front of crowds who already share his political ideals. He can whip up a conservative crowd like the best of them. As Politico put it today, "He speaks in conservative parables." That may serve him well in a primary run, especially early on. He's great at preaching to the choir. 

But whether or not Rubio can deliver the kind of speech that resonates with all of Americans remains to be seen. His most high profile chance to do so, delivering the Republican response to the 2013 State of the Union, was marred by an unfortunate water bottle blunder. It speaks volumes that the rest of the speech wasn't particularly special enough for anyone to remember anything else.

Rubio Won't Necessarily Guarantee Republicans Inroads With Hispanics 
Obama is not responsible for African-American voters overwhelming voting Democrat, of course, but it's easy to forget that his support amongst black voters wasn't always a foregone conclusion. Early polls in the 2008 primary cycle actually shows Clinton leading among black voters, and many blame her support slipping away amongst those voters not on just on Obama's own race but her failure to connect with them. Voters don't simply go to the polls and vote for the person who shares similar heritage. 

We already know that from Rubio's past elections. He only won 55 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida in 2010 in a year in which those same exit polls showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott winning 50 percent of Hispanics. Recent polls also show that Jeb Bush's approval rating in Florida is actually a bit higher amongst Hispanics than Rubio's. 

A Rubio candidacy may churn out higher voter turnout amongst Hispanics who are already Republicans or lean that way, but there's no guarantee or evidence he'll automatically garner strong Latino support, especially with his controversial stance on Immigration. 

Rubio Isn't Hip With the Kids
Rubio's rise to power has largely relied on older voters. First the type who churn out to vote at a high rate for local and state legislative races here in Miami-Dade, and then amongst older-leaning Tea Partiers. He has no real experience with reaching out to young voters in any meaningful way. 

Have you talked to young Republicans lately? Do you know who they're crazy about? Rand Paul, like his father Ron before him. Polls indicate Paul is the favorite among younger voters while Rubio languishes as a 4th, 5th or even 6th place also-ran. Sure, he can talk about how much he likes Nicki Minaj all he wants, but that hasn't helped with the youth. 

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