Marco Rubio's Sinking Ship

When a ship goes down, it is rarely all at once. We are all familiar with the story of the Titanic. Or, more recently, the capsizing of the Costa Concordia which played out over a timeframe of multiple hours. Large vessels take some time to go down, and a presidential campaign is, if anything, a large vessel.

Obviously, that brings us to Marco Rubio and a presidential campaign that, as a matter of hyperbole, has been taking on water for some time. It seems that the campaign may insist on continuing because, often, continuing is easier than quitting. Denial is a powerful ally.

Setting aside a strong showing in Puerto Rico, the story of Rubio’s candidacy can be seen in the results of the last three major days of voting.

On Super Tuesday, March 1st, Rubio received a simple average of 23.04% of votes cast (blending together his final vote percentage received in each state). On March 5th -- remembering that this is still in the same week -- this fell to 13.07%. Rubio argued in a very labored speech that night that these states were never suited for him and that better nights were ahead. A few days later, on March 8th, Rubio received a simple average of 10.85% of voting.

Four states voted and awarded delegates to the Republican race for president on Tuesday, March 8th. Senator Rubio received 178,467 votes (as of the tally available the next morning). Again, this is his total across four states. If the ramifications of this number aren’t self-evident, the necessary context is that nearly two million people voted.

The Florida senator has been on a sharp recent decline following a consolidation of support which was always more hype than fact. Regardless how past election cycles have felt, the powerbrokers in Washington can’t simply will someone to victory; a lesson we have had a chance to learn multiple times this year.

Much will be written in the next four years about the campaign’s belief that ground game politics is outdated, and those writings will note that the candidate only crested above 30% of support in three of twenty-two contests. Across all states he has averaged around 19% of the vote. It is not a new and bold position to those outside of his bubble to suggest that Marco has never had a clear path to the White House, even before Super Tuesday.

So what set the S.S. Marco on its ill-fated trajectory? In the end, there are two primary explanations. The first is simply that the field was -- and still is -- too crowded. That is certainly not Marco’s fault, per se, except in his insistence on remaining around. A lot of good men -- and Marco is certainly one -- found themselves this year to be presidential material in the wrong place and time. The other concern is that Marco really seemed to capsize (might as well put forward the nautical imagery thick now) when he tried to be something which he is not. That something resembled the heyday of Andrew Dice Clay more than anything. It was only after we saw the "new" Marco that the support which he did have started to drop dramatically. His campaign message of the last two weeks was upsettingly different relative to his "New American Century" pitch.

Much has been written over the last six months about Senator Rubio potentially being “too conservative” for the so-called establishment to support. While there may be a kernel of truth in this, it is largely unrelated to what torpedoed (ahem) Marco. 

The politician-ranking website Conservative Review assigns Marco a “Liberty Score” of 79%. The correct context to digest this number in is that it makes him the 7th most conservative member of the Senate (out of 54). It’s a funny curve, however, as this puts him only 3% away from four-term establishment Idaho senator Michael Crapo. The Republican Senate, as a whole, is not a conservative body.

I would argue, however, that the “establishment” doesn’t have a strict litmus test to say that someone is or is not “too” conservative. John Kasich was considered to be fairly conservative in his day. What makes someone part of the establishment is a willingness to compromise.

In this regard, Marco Rubio certainly found his own.

To paraphrase Gorgeous George, a famed professional wrestler of a bygone era, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always compromise.”

To defend Marco in a backhanded manner, he was only in Washington long enough to contract stage one of the establishment disease. As he progressed, compromise would have become the goal in itself (instead of just a means to the end) and success would be measured by the ability to pass a sheer volume of legislation; the words therein being largely academic.

At any rate, before too much longer Marco Rubio will be neither senator nor president. And perhaps that is why he insists on continuing down this road, at least until Florida; his metaphorical vessel not just taking on water but going down fast.

It doesn’t make it any less sad to observe. Marco clearly insists on continuing to go down with the ship, even though most of his voters are watching from afar, having safely made it to shore.