Rubio is also making the most shallow appeal of any Republican in the field. The undisguised promise of his candidacy is that his youth and background will allow him to herald an orthodox Republican policy agenda as somehow distinct and visionary. Perhaps because his heterodoxies are so superficial, Rubio enjoys the support of only 23 percent of Hispanic voters, lower than the paltry share that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

In this way, Rubio resembles the Republican Party’s answer to John Edwards rather than a genuine reformer, like Clinton. Both Clinton and Edwards banked on their meager Southern upbringings—the man from Hope and the son of a mill worker, respectively—to appeal to culturally conservative, Republican-leaning constituencies. Clinton, who ran at a time when the Democratic Party needed to widen its appeal, and on a platform that genuinely deviated from party doctrine, became president. Edwards first ran as a second coming of Clinton in 2004, when Democrats were haplessly trying to out-warrior Republicans. He ran again four years later, at a moment when Democrats were ascendant, as a doctrinaire progressive with a Southern accent. He lost both times.

You can fairly boil down the GOP debate over whether to maximize white turnout or adopt more inclusive politics to the question of whether Republicans should be searching for their Obama or their Clinton. Both theories have surface plausibility. Trump is their Obama. So far, Rubio is neither their Obama nor their Clinton.