Is Rubio the new Mitt Romney?

For me, at least, the promise of Rubio seldom corresponds with the reality. Whenever I listen to him these days, all I hear is Mitt Romney. If he’s really imbued with all these formidable political skills, why do so many of his appearances feel stilted? If he’s one of fresh faces of a new GOP, why are his speeches crammed with platitudes that may have packed a serious punch in 1984? It’s not that he’s substantively wrong (though he offers so little in that regard), it’s not that he’s off-putting, it’s that he never really generates the sort of excitement or displays the sort of political acumen his reputation might have you believe he can, should or will.

When Rubio was christened the “The Republican Savior” by Time in 2013, it was immigration reform –specifically his backing for a pathway to citizenship — that would be his first test of leadership; his chance, according to magazine, to show Republicans “that he’s not just geographically, demographically and ideologically correct.” And did he pass? Agree with him or not, Rubio’s time with the Gang of Eight featured some impressive moments. He didn’t shy away from critics. He went on talk radio and passionately argued his case. The base was mad, but likely forgive him. What should be more concerning, though, is the political naiveté he displayed allowing Democrats to use the issue – and him – to bludgeon the GOP. Rubio, in the end, was forced to step away from the entire mess, which makes it a failure on both a political and policy level.

And Rubio’s subsequent pandering was his way of letting everyone know he was “severely” conservative. His conservative voting record is first-rate according to American Conservative Union. But exactly how challenging is it for a Republican senator in the minority to oppose Barack Obama over the past five years? Not very. Others with comparable ACU grades include Mitch McConnell and about a dozen others. There’s nothing wrong with Rubio’s boilerplate anti-Obama positioning, but there’s nothing especially unique about it, either.