I’m old enough to remember Republicans dismissing Obama in 2008 as a young, charismatic, but untested naif whose career as a state legislator and brief service in the Senate made him woefully unqualified for the presidency. What better way to celebrate the validation of that criticism than by nominating someone … who fits exactly that description, right down to the trailblazing racial angle? Fortysomething guy with a thin record who gives good speeches 2016!
In fairness to Rubio, I think he answered this question as well as one can. If he says, sure, I’m ready, he sounds arrogant. If he says, no, no freshman senator is ready and cites the guy in the Oval Office right now as Exhibit A, he’s handing Jeb, Christie, and Scott Walker an easy soundbite to use against him in 2016. (One difference between Rubio and Obama is that O could — and did — get away with saying something like that, shortly after he won his Senate seat.) So he splits the difference: Yes, he’s ready, but so are a bunch of other people in the Republican field. That defuses the arrogance problem and avoids handing his opponents ammo. A good example of Rubio’s retail smarts on the fly.
Watch to the end to see how he fields a new question about climate change, a topic Rubio palpably would rather avoid, especially now that he’s eyeing establishment support and national office. There’s some difference-splitting in that answer too, as he concedes that it’s worth taking mitigation measures against the effects of global warming but refuses to endorse the idea that it’s man-made. Something for everyone in that answer. As for his would-be candidacy, here’s something I’ve been thinking about: Is it better or worse for Rubio if Ted Cruz runs? Ideally he’d like to position himself between Chris Christie in the center and Rand Paul on the right, since each of those guys have flaws that might lead people to look for a compromise candidate like Rubio. His problem if Cruz runs is that many conservatives who have issues with Paul might opt for Cruz in that case instead of the more centrist Rubio. On the other hand, having Cruz in the race splitting right-wing votes with Paul would help Rubio if he can consolidate support in the center by knocking out Christie early. Hard to believe that neither Jeb nor Christie would run, but if that happens, it’s Rubio’s dream scenario.