YAKIMA, Wash., April 15, 2013 — Marco Rubio (R-FL) is expected to be a candidate in the nominating process for the presidential election of 2016. The 41 year-old junior senator from Florida is highly respected, effective, and movie-star handsome. In a three-way senate contest in 2010, Rubio received close to 50 percent of the vote to become the junior senator from Florida. If he wants it, he will be a major player in the race for the Republican nominee in 2016.
But he has one major drawback. He holds the title “Crown Prince of the Tea Party movement.” To be a viable presidential candidate in 2016, the senator will have to migrate back to the center of the political spectrum.
According to Pew Research Center data, the tea party conservatives of the Republican Party are both politically and demographically distinct from the national voters. The members of this Republican block are 92 percent white, male, religious, at least 50 years old and are financially set. Mitt Romney was a darling of this group and in the last national contest, lost.
At the moment, the Republican Party has an unfavorable rating of 58 percent, while only 33 percent had a positive view of the Republicans. According to Pew, Democrats are viewed more favorably than the republicans. It’s the Republicans’ own narrow ultra-right message that is hurting their cause.
During the last few news cycles, the public has become aware that the Senate “gang of eight” (made up of four Republicans and four Democrats) is putting the final touches on a new immigration bill they feel can get through Senate. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) both feel it is a viable bill and are excited to bring it to the Senate floor.
Rubio, also a member of the “gang of eight,” faces a choice of supporting the bipartisan bill or remaining with the ultra conservative tea party members of his party. This wing of the party is feeling threatened by the possibility of increasing the voting population of Hispanics.
When asked to comment on the bill, Rubio responded by saying he would lots more to say in the next few days. And, did he ever. On the weekend talk shows, Face The Nation and Meet The Press, he delivered two messages that will endear him to the ultra-conservatives, but will not win him favor with the national voters.
His first disingenuous remark concerned immigration when he declared it would be better for illegal aliens to voluntary return to Mexico and wait for ten years before applying for a green card. These types of remarks will win him favor with his tea party supporters but not with the Hispanic community.
A person wanting to win the 2016 Presidential election must have a material voting base of Hispanic national voters. Suggesting Hispanic aliens return home voluntarily was one of Mitt Romney’s remarks that lead to his losing the 2012 election. Rubio may want to rethink his position on immigration.
The Senator also commented on gun legislation that is now being debated by Senate. His remarks were very positive, but instead of taking any firm position, he attempted to change the debate when he said the problem is not guns, nor background checks. He clearly stated the problem is violence, and then went on to say the debate needs to be about “How do we curb violence?”
Clearly, he was pandering to his conservatives, both ultras and a few progressives. If he is eyeing the 2016 Presidential but still maintaining strong ties to the far right of the Party, it will not work.
If Senator Rubio is serious about a presidential run, he will have to abandon his ultra-right wing principles and moderate his position more towards the political middle.
Senator Rubio is man caught in a political quandary. He is caught between his desire to be President and his conservative principles.
Larry Momo writes for both The Washington Times Communities and the San Pedro News Pilot.
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