While other candidates such as Trump and Cruz have been making headlines with their outspoken viewpoints, one candidate, Marco Rubio, has been quietly attempting to establish himself as the voice of reason. As the youngest candidate, Rubio’s career has been one of lightning fast growth and his performances in the caucuses so far have been steady. Where has he come from? What does he believe? And can he become president of the United States?
Who is he?
Rubio was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban parents who had emigrated to the United States fifteen years earlier. He was raised a Roman Catholic and studied law at university. He entered politics in 1999 by being voted in as the Miami representative of the Florida house of representatives as a member of the Republican party. Miami is considered a Republican safe seat and Rubio was re-elected four times during which time he was made a party whip and in 2005 became speaker of the house.
Rubio’s political career continued to grow and in 2010 he was elected to the US senate as the senator for Florida. During much of time in the senate, the Republican party was in the minority, limiting their (and Rubio’s) ability to influence legislation. However, during this time he gained a reputation for being outspoken on international affairs and critical of Obama’s foreign policy.
Rubio has used his family history to leverage political support, arguing that his story is an example of the American dream. He is proud of his Cuban origins and the fact that a second generation Cuban-American can rise up through society and run for president. He is married to an American of Colombian descent and together they have four children. He is the youngest candidate running for the Republican nomination.
What are his policies?
Rubio takes a strong stance on international politics. He is a supporter of Israel and argues for a tough stance on ISIS, Iran and China. Like most of the Cuban-American community he is strongly anti-Castro and wants to reverse the tentative steps Obama has taken towards normalising relations between the two countries.
He also wants to repeal Obamacare believing that the government must be conservative with its spending except when it comes to defence. He also wants to takes more steps to stop immigration into the USA but once this is achieved, believes that those already inside the country should be offered pathways to gain citizenship. He is a strong believer in the idea that free-trade should in no way be impeded upon and that government interference should be avoided. He does however, support the war on drugs and believes that government surveillance is necessary.
Can he win?
Rubio is considered by many to be a safe establishment choice for the Republican nomination. Just as left-wing candidate Sanders is surprising the established central block of the Democratic party, Trump’s unexpected popularity is worrying many Republicans who don’t want to alienate floating voters by nominating someone such as Trump or even Cruz, who some consider to be too extreme. Rubio is conservative and has worked his way up through the political system. This establishment backing and his position as a voice of relative reason gives him some authority that could conceivably turn into votes.
It is however, the people (through the delegate system) and not the Republican party establishment, who will decide who wins the nomination and so far the results for Rubio have been mixed. There have only been two votes so far with Rubio coming 3rd in Iowa – a strong showing – and 5th in New Hampshire. This puts him in 3rd place in terms of delegates won and percentage of the popular vote. The list of contenders has shrunk down to six, and with Jeb Bush’s poor showing so far, it looks like the battle to become the moderate candidate is currently between Rubio and Kasich with Rubio slightly in front. If he wins that battle, Rubio needs America to change its current course and for the trend towards the political extreme (that has put Trump and Cruz well out in front) to subside. It must be noted, that there is still a long way to go.
The theme of both party’s nomination contests has been the move away from the centre. If Rubio was to win the nomination, he could either find himself up against a fellow centrist candidate in Clinton, or the leftist, Sanders. If he were to face Sanders, his moderate stance could do him a world of good with mainstream Americans who might be put off by Sanders’ radical image. A battle against Clinton however would be a difficult feat.
An interesting aside worth noting is that, in a presidential contest, Rubio’s Florida background could be extremely beneficial. American elections are normally decided by a handful of swing states and Florida is one of them. It was Florida that decided the election race between George Bush and Al Gore and so, if it really came down to the wire, Rubio’s home advantage could be the factor that meant victory.
What do you think?
Can Marco Rubio Win?
Illustration by Piotr Lesniak, original source here.