If you want to know why Rubio hasn’t walked away from the Gang of Eight bill yet, that’s why. He has no political incentive to do so. If he hangs in there and the bill passes, he’ll get all sorts of media love as the “new leader of the GOP,” a man who “makes things happen in Washington,” blah blah. You and I will pound the table and swear that we’ll never, ever vote for him in 2016, and that might be true — for awhile. But strange things happen. What if Christie emerges as a real threat to take the nomination with moderate support? Suddenly Rubio becomes the lesser of two evils, a guy who’s much more conservative than Christie on balance, who has a pretty good record if you exclude the whole “terrible immigration bill” thing, who’s darned electable against Hillary and isn’t that what’s really important? We’ll talk ourselves into it and Rubio knows it. And then, once he’s the nominee, any righty who threatens to stay home in protest of his embarrassing betrayal of border security (and betrayal of the voters who elected him in 2010 as an anti-amnesty candidate) will be considered an utmost traitor to the conservative cause. Again, Rubio knows all this. He’s counting on it. If he throws conservatives a bone by quitting on the bill now, the Democrats and media will run him down endlessly in the media, hurting him with low-information voters. And meanwhile righties will still be grumpy at him for having taken the bill as far as he did. Ever hear the expression “the only way out is through”? That’s Rubio on immigration reform at this point. Pass the bill and then let political gravity solve your problems for you.
As for the rest of the field, few surprises. Paul Ryan has the highest rating because he has the highest name recognition as a former VP nominee. Christie, for all the obvious reasons, has the lowest although even his numbers are pretty healthy. Follow the link to Gallup up top and scroll down their post and you’ll see that not only is Christie the only one of the five to also have a positive favorable rating with Democrats, his Democratic numbers are actually higher than his Republican ones — 54/17 versus 53/25. That’ll change as we get closer to 2016 but it’s a golden foundation for his inevitable “electability” campaign.
One thing that does surprise me about the Democratic numbers is how poorly Rand Paul does. You would think a GOP contrarian with liberal-ish views on civil liberties, drug laws, and (to a lesser extent) gay marriage would fare better with people left of center. Nope: At 16/45 he’s more than 10 points worse off than Ted Cruz, the bete noire of lefty media. How come? Mainly, I assume, it’s because low-information Democrats know little about the ins and outs of Rand’s philosophy but know him quite well as a chronic critic of Obama, especially after his drone filibuster. To the extent that they do know his philosophy, five years ago he’d be a hero to them as a naysayer of Bush’s security state but as a naysayer of Obama’s security state — which they now support for lame partisan reasons — he’s a recurring thorn in their side. All of this is a complication for Rand’s 2016 strategy, as he’s planning to run as a guy who can unite moderates with conservatives/libertarians and potentially put blue states in play. If Gallup’s numbers are right, that’s dubious. And the left really hasn’t even taken out its brass knuckles against Paul yet. Wait until they start revisiting his 2010 comments about the Civil Rights Act. Or this footnote during his filibuster, which I’ve warned you before will be a bigger deal if he wins the nomination than most people think.