Over a two-hour conversation, Rubio offers a conservative message on a wide spectrum of issues, often punctuating his points with memorable and witty observations: “We’re getting lectured to by the Chinese on economics”; “On the stimulus, mostly we’re stimulating the debt”; “No start-up guy is going to get any stimulus dollars”; “I like Dick Cheney, but nobody’s perfect — he’s not a very good hunter, apparently”; “Cuban-Americans don’t think of themselves as minorities, because in Miami, they’re the majority”; “There’s a correlation between cigar-smokers and their politics.”…

Asked what his message is, Rubio offers one that is clear — but not necessarily specific to this race: “There are few things more unjust than the possibility that my kids are going to inherit a weaker nation than the one I inherited from my parents. . . . Things don’t have to be the way they are. You can lose your country. America will not become Marxist, but it will lose what makes it unique unless we act.”

But there’s room for an argument that’s a bit sharper — even if Rubio says he wants to win the primary without tearing down Crist. Put simply: If the best the Florida Republican party can do in a Senate race against weak Democratic opponents is to nominate a man who held a rally for Obama’s stimulus, the party might as well close up shop and go home.