No, really: Why is the Times working so hard lately to make Rubio seem like an ordinary guy?

First came the moronic traffic-tickets “expose,” then came today’s fishing-boat bombshell. There’s gotta be an angle to why they’d double dip on such underwhelming stories. We’re in a weird place where Glenn Greenwald is saying things like this about a super-hawkish socially conservative Republican:

Another lefty, Jamelle Bouie of Slate, defended Rubio by noting that kids who grow up without much money around often have trouble managing it as adults:

That’s a lot of love from liberals for Rubio that the Times is risking with these pieces. There’s gotta be an angle. Either that or the NYT’s become completely inept at hit pieces on top GOP contenders, which I don’t buy. Sean Trende’s Spidey sense is tingling too:

That makes sense. They’re preparing the battlespace for some sort of more legit bombshell that’s going to play off these early stories somehow to cast Rubio as … what, exactly? Trende thinks the narrative they’re working on is that Rubio is corrupt and believe he’s above the law. I can see the value of that strategically: Those same criticisms are the two biggest knocks on Hillary Clinton, so if the Times succeeds in building a tu quoque against Rubio on the same grounds, it’ll take some of the sting out of the GOP attacks on Her Majesty. But … neither the traffic-tickets story nor today’s finance story lands a hard punch on corruption. The worst that can be said of Rubio, a la Greenwald and Bouie, is that he’s spent some of his money in foolish but relatable ways. In fact, Ashe Schow argues that these penny-ante attacks on Rubio’s finances are backfiring by leading readers to draw a contrast with Hillary’s much greater, and much shadier, financial sins. E.g.:

I like this alternate theory of what the Times is up to, even if I don’t quite buy it:

Hillary’s biggest asset in the campaign is the fact that she’s a household name; once she’s the first woman major-party nominee, she’ll be a legit icon to Democrats, albeit much less charismatic than Obama was. Rubio poses a special challenge to her in that he’s got icon potential too — young, handsome, waaaay more charismatic, and with his own trailblazing identity-politics narrative. Maybe what the Times is up to is trying to “shlub-ify” him somehow. He’s not an icon, he’s just a middle-class novice pol who can’t balance his own checkbook. While he was busy trying to figure out how to pay for a boat, Hillary was busy running a multimillion-dollar “charity” slush fund and deleting public records en masse from her private e-mail server. You may disdain the way she does business, but she’s smart enough to make the system work for her. Rubio’s just a chump. That narrative is a reaction to six years of Hopenchange: We tried the young relatable guy who preached good government and Change in 2008, now we’re ready for someone who knows where the bodies are buried in D.C. and can get things done. They’re demystifying Rubio before the mystique can really build. The problem with that theory, though, is that it contradicts rule one of politics: It’s always, always a good thing for a pol to be seen by voters as One Of Us. In fact, that was key to Bill Clinton’s appeal in 1992. If we end up with a Clinton/Rubio election, it’ll be Hillary in the role of the aging D.C. establishmentarian a la Bush 41 and Rubio as the upstart who knows how to talk to average people. That didn’t work out so well for establishmentarians last time. Hard to believe that the Times and whichever Democratic hatchet job is feeding them these stories would bet big on the idea that what Americans want after eight years of Obama is, essentially, monarchy rather than the nice young middle-class guy from Florida. And a really corrupt monarchy at that.

So no, that’s not the angle here. But then, what is? All theories welcome in the comments. Exit quotation: