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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Why Marco Rubio is now merely an asterisk in some future history textbook

Now that Marco Rubio’s been out of the race for a few days, it’s time to take a look back at his candidacy and why it flamed out so dramatically. Virtually from the beginning, Rubio had a ton of hopes heaped upon him by the establishment but also by some conservatives who thought he “fit the suit” when it comes to defining what a presidential candidate should look and sound like.

He truly was the elites’ dream candidate – a polished, younger version of Mitt Romney from a humble background who rose up to win a Senate seat and then run for president. But the voters weren’t buying the Marco Rubio textbooksell-job. Many will argue it was Donald Trump who took Rubio down, but it goes much deeper than that.

Tim Alberta of National Review writes, “He campaigned on the ground so infrequently for much of the campaign that even some supporters questioned how hard he was willing to work to get elected. He refused to play for wins, choosing instead to position himself as everyone’s second choice in hopes of becoming the consensus unifier as the field winnowed. And his strategy was one-dimensional, leaning so heavily on personality and biography that his concrete proposals — aimed at convincing voters that he knew how to solve their problems, not just how to relate to them— never broke through.”

Alberta goes on to detail the many and varied mistakes Rubio and his campaign made in contributing to their own demise. Well worth the read if you have time. But Rubio’s inadequate campaign organization didn’t lose the race. Marco himself did.

Here’s my postmortem take on Rubio’s candidacy.

It didn’t fail because of anything related to demographics. Republicans and conservatives didn’t trust an old, white, brash-talking reality TV star more than a young attractive Floridian of Cuban heritage.

It wasn’t a generational thing. Rubio’s age neither hurt nor helped him. It wasn’t because Rubio was fairly inexperienced – just look at Barack Obama, whose pre-presidency resume was much thinner even than Rubio’s.

All of these notions are squelched in the person of Ted Cruz, because Cruz fits almost an identical profile to Rubio (which made it all the crazier when commentators would say Rubio’s strongest selling point was his youth, good looks and ability to contrast with decrepit and haggard Hillary Clinton).

Personality didn’t have anything to do with it either. Rubio is highly likable. Having watched him closely throughout the campaign and during the debates, he probably gets the Republican field’s highest overall marks for his personable nature and brilliant gift of gab. It could almost be said Marco’s a younger, male version of Carly Fiorina in terms of his ability to take control of debates with words alone.

But similar to the problems with Fiorina’s candidacy, you just didn’t get the impression Rubio was deeply grounded in principle. Of course he’s best known for his dubious connection with the notorious amnesty-advocating Gang of Eight, but beyond that, what else did he actually do to distinguish himself from the other candidates?

If you can’t think of anything, don’t feel bad. No one else can either.

To help with the exercise, let’s play thought association. What comes to mind when you think of each of these folks (feel free to comment below if you’d like to add your own list, but keep it clean and civil, please):

“Hillary Clinton”: Screechy, old, liar. She’s the ultimate corrupt politician who wouldn’t be anywhere except for her philandering good ‘ol boy husband’s career.

“Bernie Sanders”: Socialist with an annoying Brooklyn accent. Larry David’s Saturday Night Live skit (it’s hilarious if you’ve never seen it). Not credible except to the extreme fringe.

“Donald Trump”: Rich. Egotistical. Angry. Vindictive. Provocative. Smart. Media master. Leader.

“Ted Cruz”: Aggressive. Smart. Principled. Ambitious. Sincere. Calculating. Anti-establishment. Leader.

“Marco Rubio”: Witty. Young. Likable. Articulate. Good guy. Lightweight. Lazy. Gang of Eight. Amnesty.

And only because he’s still in the race, we’ll add:

“John Kasich”:  Unhindered. Sunny. Establishment. Newt Gingrich revolution. George W. Bush. Numbers guy. Squishy. Culturally ungrounded. Delusional.

You get the idea. Each one of these candidates has tried hard to foster an image where people can latch onto them, basically able to sum up what they represent in one sentence.

Marco Rubio’s biggest problem was his one-sentence description always included the Gang of Eight and amnesty. Beyond that, there really isn’t much else. Let’s not forget Rubio-backer Rick Santorum couldn’t name any of Rubio’s accomplishments…because there really aren’t any. So when you’re playing thought-association with Rubio, there’s no surprise when you recall only about his personal qualities and don’t think of anything he’s known for.

Except for amnesty, of course.

Almost as if breaking up with someone, we should look Marco in the eye, put a hand on his shoulder and say, “It isn’t you, it’s me.”

That’s what Republican voters were saying all across the country in the past month and a half. And now after all those tens of millions of establishment dollars spent went for naught and Rubio’s campaign is merely an asterisk in some future history textbook, he’s back to just being a junior senator in an institution he clearly can’t stand.

Sad, isn’t it?

Arizona and Utah begin phase of hand-to-hand combat for each delegate

While the race might be over for Marco Rubio now, it’s still very much alive for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, with John Kasich trailing along somewhere nebulously behind.

It’s unclear how Kasich’s continued presence will impact the overall vote since most Republicans now acknowledge Cruz is the only one other than Trump who can possibly win the race or at least stop the billionaire showman from getting the 1237 delegates required to secure the nomination ahead of the Republican convention this summer.

The next stop in the race is Tuesday out west in Arizona and Utah. Utah holds caucuses, a type of election that would seem to benefit Ted Cruz, and Arizona conducts a closed Republican primary – also a format that has been favorable to Cruz in the recent past.

Michael Patrick Leahy of Breitbart writes, “If GOP frontrunner Donald Trump wins next week’s March 22 winner-take-all primary in Arizona, his chances of securing enough delegates to wrap up the Republican nomination for president on the first ballot at the party’s July convention in Cleveland, Ohio will improve significantly. But the results of the majority-take-all Utah caucus held on the same day could change that trajectory.”

In his article, Leahy proceeds to lay out the different scenarios on what percentage of the remaining delegates Trump would need depending on how he does in various states.

Needless to say, the more Cruz wins, the harder it becomes for Trump to reach 1237.

But every state is crucially important at this point. “[E]xpect hand-to-hand combat in each state as Trump, Cruz, and Kasich exhaust every effort to secure every last possible delegate between now and the July 18 convention.”

Naturally, each state has different rules on how delegates are awarded. This will no doubt influence how the candidates treat each one, weighing their chances and allocating resources accordingly. This race-within-a-race is another area that should tend to favor Cruz, as he’s had the more strategic and focused campaign since day one.

Time will tell who will come out ahead. But if you really dig down into the nitty gritty details, you’ll easily recognize how the race will probably continue all the way through California in early June.

At that time, delegate totals will dictate any possible strategies for the convention. It’s going to be exciting, at the very least.

Ted Cruz reveals his foreign policy advisory team

The Republican presidential candidates have all been asked numerous questions about their views on foreign relations, but up on the debate stage it’s not exactly clear how they came to those opinions or who’s going to advise them should they be elected president.

Some clarity was provided yesterday. Ted Cruz named names about who he’d be working with in a Cruz administration.

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday unveiled his national security advisory team, which includes a list of headliners such as Elliott Abrams and former Sen. Jim Talent…

“Cruz's national security coalition includes 23 names aside from [Victoria] Coates, and stands in stark contrast to his top rival Donald Trump. The former reality television star has teased releasing names of his national security team for weeks, but has not done so. A top adviser to Trump's campaign has routinely provided just one name for Trump's foreign policy team: Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.”

One name other than himself, of course. Earlier this week Trump said he would be his own lead advisor and he would be “speaking with myself” on matters of foreign policy.

That sounds like a dictator to me.

It’s hard to pin down exactly how Cruz’s releasing of his list of foreign policy advisors would change things much in the presidential race. Abrams, of course, was a key advisor to George W. Bush on Middle East policy.

“Advice” is one thing. Cruz has talked often about how redeploying American troops to the Middle East was the final option, preferring to wage bombing campaigns and other conventional means first.

We can only hope Cruz’s foreign policy wouldn’t look like Bush’s. But again, Cruz is definitely smart enough to know such a return to the Bush years wouldn’t be popular. And a new administration needs the support of the People to succeed.

Cruz should be commended for his openness. It’s clearly showing he’s ready to assume the role of Commander in Chief.

Yes, Lindsey Graham actually did endorse Ted Cruz

Finally this week, in a sure sign the squishy Republican establishment is more afraid of Donald Trump than they are of Ted Cruz, South Carolina Senator and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham endorsed the Texas senator on Thursday.

Katie Glueck of Politico reports, “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has thrown his support to Ted Cruz, calling him ‘the best alternative’ to Donald Trump…

“This marks the second senator to publicly support Cruz, and is a significant development: Graham, a more centrist South Carolina senator, until recently openly detested his colleague from Texas. But in recent weeks he has suggested that Cruz stands the best chance of beating Donald Trump.”

Glueck says Graham’s backing is “significant.” I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but it’s better to have friends than enemies, even if it’s the amnesty loving Lindsey Graham.

More than anything, Graham seems willing to be the public face of an establishment that’s coming to terms with the possibility of Cruz leading the party. It also means they don’t see John Kasich as a viable alternative, despite the fact Kasich’s views appear to be closer to those of Graham and his close colleagues.

If they can get beyond the pettiness and sore loser instincts of so many of them, the elites will see how Cruz actually helps the GOP rather than hurts it.

It’s also a sign the establishment isn’t planning to sit out the election or even worse, bash the conservative in the race. All good things.

I’m sure Cruz has some misgivings about having Graham speak on his behalf, but as outlined above, every delegate counts at this point.

We’ll see if more establishmentarians get on board in the days and weeks to come.

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