The Florida senator can embrace George W. Bush’s message and rhetorical stylings — higher defense spending and domestic policies that will appeal to conservatives but targeted at lower-income Americans — but with the personal authority to speak about the poor in this country. And he can do it without the dynastic baggage that fellow 2016er Jeb Bush brings to the presidential contest.
The Republican Party hasn’t seen compassionate conservatism in a while. During the heyday of the Tea Party movement, Republicans around the country decried Obama as a food stamp president and demanded drug testing for welfare recipients. Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came off as apathetic to the poor, and his “47 percent” comments cemented his reputation as a heartless plutocrat in the minds of many voters.
But Rubio grew up the son of a bartender and a maid, both immigrants. He has a mortgage — just one — that he and his wife pay on the fifth of every month. The Florida senator can speak with familiarity about being poor — which couldn’t be said of Romney, a gazillionaire memorably described by Mike Huckabee as “the guy who fires you”; John McCain, the son and grandson of admirals; and George W. Bush, the son of a president.