Rubio’s strengths might be a bad fit for the 2016 mood. Part of the reason that pundits (myself included) have tended to rate the Florida senator highly as a candidate is that he combines a conservative record with some of the gifts of Bill Clinton circa 1992 and Barack Obama circa 2008 — eloquence, optimism, a strong personal narrative, a clear interest in domestic policy.
But in this election, many Republican voters seem to be looking for a Richard Nixon — a hard man for hard times, you might say, which isn’t really a slogan that fits the boyish-looking first term senator.
This is why perhaps — just perhaps — Rubio’s strategy of avoiding conflicts with Trump has been a strategic error. A young politician can try to project toughness all he likes, but the only way to actually prove your toughness is to fight the battle that’s right in front of you.
And for Rubio, sooner rather than too late, that might mean finding a way to fight with Donald Trump and win.