Marco Rubio is a good public speaker and pretty charismatic, but that’s not why he’s being touted by GOPers. No, Rubio is on the short list because he’s Latino, and if 2012 has taught the GOP anything, it’s that they desperately need to win over Latinos. If they nominate Rubio, the thinking goes, Latinos will rush to vote for Republicans for the same reason whites rushed to vote for Mitt Romney.
Now, I do not want to sell Rubio short. His speech at the RNC was very good, and had the Romney campaign not gotten the bright idea to bump it out of prime time in favor of Clint Eastwood yelling at a chair, it would have been pretty effective. Rubio has some ethical issues, and he’s flat-out lied about the timing of his parents’ departure from Cuba, but he also won election in a swing state. He’s clearly got political skill, and Democrats underestimate him at their peril.
That said, Republicans are wrong if they think Rubio will automatically win over Latino voters. Believe it or not, Latinos vote based on issues, and on the issues, Rubio has been out of step with the majority of them. Hispanic voters are not likely to embrace a candidate who has his roots in the anti-immigration, Tea Party wing of the party, any more than African American voters would have embraced Herman Cain.
Rubio’s path gets more difficult if Jeb Bush jumps into the race — a fellow Floridian in the mix would make fundraising tougher. Still, he’s one of the leading lights on the party’s right wing, and likely the strongest challenger to Ryan for that mantle.
Assuming, as I do, that Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, will not run in 2016, the most likely libertarian-wing candidate to catch on will be his son, Rand, by dynastic succession.
Thus far, Rand has been a more consistent Republican than Ron, which gives him a slightly-better chance at getting the party’s nomination. Emphasis on “slightly” — Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 runs proved that there is a significant minority of the Republican Party that leans libertarian, and a more significant majority that does not.
Nevertheless, the Ron Paul Revolutionaries will almost certainly turn out for Rand, meaning that Rand Paul has the potential to run a strong third or fourth everywhere in the country, before toying with and ultimately rejecting a third-party run. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Jindal is still trying to live down his disastrous 2009 Republican Response to President Barack Obama, which was widely panned, and may have kept him out of the 2012 race. Time heals all wounds, though, and Jindal is trying to remake himself, not as the guy who once performed an exorcism in college, or the guy who railed against monitoring volcanoes, but as a guy who wants to end “dumbed down conservatism.” That puts Jindal squarely in the hack camp, and if Jeb Bush doesn’t run, he’s got a chance to be that group’s leader.
Jindal is far from a moderate, of course, but he does seem to at least possess enough awareness to know that it’s important to cloak conservatism in a veneer of stability. He’s taking a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook, arguing for a compassionate conservatism.
Jindal still has a few big strikes against him. He’s not proven an especially adroit public speaker, and he lacks the je ne sais quoi of Marco Rubio. Politically, though, it makes sense for him to line up with the hacks — the path is clearer on that side.
6. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Will Our Michele make a run for the presidency in 2016? It’s possible. She’s rumored to be eyeing a matchup with Sen. Al Franken, R-Minn., in 2014, and if she loses that (as she almost certainly would), she’ll have some time on her hands. Granted, 2012 was a bit of a wipeout for her, but using logic to figure out what Bachmann is going to do is silly.
If she runs, Bachmann has a strong natural constituency among far-right evangelicals. It’s easy to forget, but had Rick Perry not entered the race in late 2011, Bachmann might well have won Iowa; Perry’s entry and swift implosion disrupted Bachmann’s momentum, and caused evangelical support to ping-pong between Cain and Santorum.
It’s unclear whether Bachmann could rebuild the support she had in August of 2011, but if she could, she can be a potential player in the presidential race.
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