Rubio will also have a generational advantage in the nominating contest. If the media even begins to suspect that the U.S. is really heading for a Clinton-Bush or Clinton-Romney contest, there will be a collective rush to find a candidate that represents the future. Rubio fits the bill. He is not in any way associated with specific policies that caused the economic crash in 2007 and 2008. Despite once leaping for a glass of water in the midst of a national television address, he is telegenic. His speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention was one of the rare highlights of that affair. And a Latino leading the GOP is the embodiment of a hopeful future in which the sons of immigrants can be so invested in the country that they feel comfortable in a conservative, center-right party.
Rubio has some ideological advantages, too. He can speak to conservatives with an ease that the “severely conservative” Romney lacks. And it seems Jeb Bush is determined not to cede much rhetorical ground to the right either. Bush’s statement that the Republican candidate must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general” reeks of Huntsman-esque high-handedness. Rubio’s speech at the 2012 convention was a model of appealing to social conservatives in a way that doesn’t freak out the mushy middle.
Speaking of, Rubio doesn’t freak out the donor class or the GOP elite, in the way that Rand Paul does on foreign policy, or Ted Cruz does on electability. His candidacy will not excite attacks from GOP interest groups. The Club for Growth will load for bear to stop Mike Huckabee. It’s impossible to imagine any group of that clout doing so to stop Rubio. In fact, GOP insiders know that Rubio has quietly cultivated a number of unofficial advisers from across the conservative movement — journalists, think-tankers, and activists. This was a wise strategy.