Marco Rubio's likely replacement in the Senate: Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

Second look at giving Rubio anything he wants to run for Senate again instead of running for president?

The bad news: Debbie Downer is better positioned here than you think. The good news: Six more years of “Debbie Wasserman Schultz said what?” videos for conservative blogs.

“Of course she’s considering it: Open Senate seats are pretty rare,” said Andrew Weinstein, a longtime supporter of the Weston congresswoman and a 2012 member of President Obama’s national finance team…

For years, anonymous Democrats in Congress, the DNC and Obama’s election machine have trashed the sometimes-acerbic congresswoman in publications like POLITICO and BuzzFeed.

“Nancy Pelosi views Debbie as a threat,” said one Democratic politician familiar with the dynamics in the U.S. House. “So perhaps they’ll all pitch in together to get her out of the DNC and out of the House and into the Senate where no one can really do anything.”…

Some Democrats are salivating at the prospect of a history-making, two-woman top-of-the-ticket race in Florida. They also hope a female Senate candidate would attract unmarried women voters, who tend to vote Democrat but disproportionately avoid voting in Florida midterms along with African-Americans and Hispanics.

I know what you’re thinking: How can she win when nobody likes her, the Obama White House included? In a word, money. She’s well practiced at raising gobs of dough as the head of the DNC; plenty of rank-and-file Democrats owe her favors for that reason. And as noted in the excerpt, having her on the same ballot as Hillary would give the Democrats a “girl power” message in Florida that might make the difference in a close race with lots of women turning out to vote in a presidential election year. Politico thinks she probably won’t challenge Rubio if he decides to run for reelection since her House seat is in a safe blue district and she’d be loath to risk that by taking on a tough Senate incumbent, but all other factors mitigate for her jumping in regardless of what he does. The fact that Pelosi and her allies have blocked Wasserman Schultz’s leadership ambitions in the House is another reason to roll the dice. Her time is winding down at the DNC and her path to power in her current chamber is hazy. Why not count on Clintonmania and her own network of rich donors to push her over the top against Rubio or whoever ends up as the GOP Senate nominee if he runs for president?

Speaking of which, Ben Domenech makes the case that Rubio’s a sucker to run for president right now:

All these aspects make Rubio seem like the kind of candidate who could win the nomination, and in handicapping the 2016 GOP field, some in DC seem to think he’s the strongest potential candidate. This, despite polling in New Hampshire. And Iowa. And South Carolina. These show him, consistently, seventh, and looking up at others with much bigger fundraising machines, executive experience, and larger ground games. Without significant stumbles by those candidates, it is very difficult to see Rubio’s path to victory in any of the first four states. That’s putting a lot of faith in that inspirational speech to make up ground.

The real challenge for Rubio early on is that he is mostly now known for just one thing among Republican primary voters: trying to lead on an immigration compromise with Barack Obama, and failing. Even at his book signing in Iowa, that’s the issue most associated with him at the moment, and it’s impossible to put it behind him. A rational evaluator would look at this circumstance and realize the opportunity in waiting to run in a few years, when the idea of Obama’s amnesty is less toxic and immediate, when he’s had an opportunity to lead with success in the Senate on a number of issues, and when he won’t be going up against a very strong field of leaders with executive experience. No one else this cycle faces the challenge of Jeb Bush as directly as Rubio: Bush will not just lap the field in fundraising, he is more popular in Rubio’s own state, and among many of Rubio’s own donors. That’s a unique handicap indeed.

He makes a point I’ve made before myself: Unlike Cruz, there are real consequences to Rubio if he runs for president and loses. Cruz will hold his Senate seat in Texas for as long as he wants it, but even if Rubio weren’t barred by law from running for two offices simultaneously in Florida, he’d have a hugely heavy lift trying to manage a competitive Senate contest while also outmaneuvering Jeb Bush and Scott Walker for the GOP nomination. It’s one or the other, and it’s not obvious why a young guy who’d benefit from another six years in the Senate to clean up his immigration record feels compelled to run now against the strongest Republican field in decades. Maybe it’s simple hubris, i.e. if he was smart enough to talk Florida into making him a senator before he was 40, he’s smart enough to talk America into making him president before he’s 46. Maybe he feels, as Domenech notes, that it’s better to run too soon and lose than wait too long and wonder what might have been, as Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie are surely now doing after passing on 2012.

I think he’s eyeing the governor’s seat as a fallback plan. If he runs for Senate again and wins, his next shot at the presidency at best is in 2020 against an incumbent President Hillary. At worst, he’ll be blocked from running by President Jeb Bush, which means he’ll be stuck waiting until 2024 at the earliest. He’d have to run for reelection to the Senate again in 2022 and who knows how much bluer Florida will be by then. Plus, who’d want to spend another six or eight dreary years wrestling with daily gridlock in the Senate? Rubio’s thinking, I’d bet, is that he might as well run for president now, raise his name recognition nationally, hope to catch fire as a younger, charismatic Jeb Bush (who, importantly, is not named “Bush”), and then maybe land as VP to Scott Walker or whoever the nominee ends up being. If the VP slot doesn’t pan out, no sweat — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited so the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2018 will be wide open. Thanks to his high name recognition, national donor network, and the fact that 2018 is a midterm year with a redder electorate, Rubio would be a favorite to win. That would earn him some executive experience, which would make him an even stronger presidential contender in 2020 or 2024.

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