Cheer up, Marco fans. He says a lot of things he doesn’t really mean, from insisting on Tuesday that he wouldn’t drop out of the race eight hours before he dropped out of the race to insisting in 2010 that earned citizenship is code for amnesty. The man’s been known to have momentous changes of heart.
A lot of conservatives on social media think he’s telling the truth this time, though. Could be. He’d make a fine VP for Kasich in theory, although Kasich’s not going to be the nominee so it doesn’t much matter. Lots of righties think he’s a natural choice to be Cruz’s VP but I’m less sold on that than others. Their profiles are too similar. Cruz ideally would want a governor, possibly with a bit of centrist appeal and midwestern cred, to balance his ticket. Cruz/Kasich would make sense but I doubt Kasich would ever sign on with Cruz. In any case, the news here isn’t Rubio taking himself out of the veepstakes but saying that he won’t run for governor either. That’s a surprise, as it’s the only major office in Florida still open to him and the only path back to presidential contention.
Some Marco fans on Twitter are interpreting that as him joining the conservative resistance to Trump, preparing for political exile until the fever breaks and conservatives return to power within the GOP. I don’t know about that. One of the reasons Rubio ran this year despite being urged to “wait his turn” for Jeb is that he understood that waiting often means political death. It certainly did for Chris Christie, who would have stood a solid chance to become nominee as the leading Anti-Romney in 2012 but decided to pass and add four more years to his gubernatorial resume instead. Result: Bridgegate, dismal failure in New Hampshire in this year’s campaign, and a new political future as top shoeshine boy for “Mr. Trump.” Waiting is dangerous. And if Rubio’s planning an exile from office until the storm of Trumpism blows over, he could be waiting forever. Nationalist parties have proved durable in Europe thanks to economic and political tension between the aging white population and younger minority population. The U.S. is facing the same demographic dynamic; if it wasn’t Trump this year, it probably would have been someone else eventually.
Rubio may be forced to either reconcile himself to Trumpism or strike out for a third party. And even if he does, he’ll still have the problem of finding another elected office to fill before running for president again. It’s hard to imagine any modern pol going the Nixon route and winning his party’s nomination after five or more years out of office. (Right, Jeb?) Nixon was a special case, having been a household name from his eight years as vice president and a party nominee once before by the time he won the White House in 1968. If Rubio doesn’t run for governor in 2018, what will his presidential credentials be circa 2024? One-term senator and … author? Speechmaker? Is that going to boost him ahead of talented younger candidates like Ben Sasse or Nikki Haley?
I think he’ll run for governor in 2018. Like I say, he really has no choice.