Who’s Afraid of Marco Rubio?

Mike Tomasky is right: an awful lot of pundits have already decided Marco Rubio is your 2016 Republican presidential nominee, and an awful lot of liberals–or at least this is the idea I get from list-serves–are terrified by the prospect. You know, there’s the youth thing and the Latino thing and the not-dumb-as-a-rock thing.

But Tomasky wants you to know that within Rubio’s very strengths are some weaknesses that would come out during a long general election contest. This is my favorite:

His youth story line can be very easily countered. Picture a Clinton-Rubio debate. Rubio prattles on about youth, the future, optimism, what have you. Mrs. Clinton? “Well, look, the Senator is undoubtedly younger than I am, that’s an objective fact. But if we’re talking about which one of us has the policies of the past, I’d say voters should look beyond mere age. Which one of us wants to keep fighting the Cold War in Cuba, and which one of us wants to move toward a new future there? Which one of us opposes gay people getting married, a policy of the past that large majorities of Americans no longer support? Which one of us would allow no abortions even in the case of rape and incest, which is literally kind of a 19th-century position? Which one of us not only opposes raising the minimum wage but opposes the existence of a federal minimum wage law, which would us all the way back to 1937, the last time this country had no federal minimum wage? That’s the candidate of the future?” Boom. If she said something like that and made two good commercials and Democrats in general hammered away at it, Rubio would shut up about the future pretty fast.

Yeah, being a young fogey is not necessarily a winning approach.

Tomasky goes on to note that Rubio has little demonstrated electoral strength among Latinos outside his Cuban-American community, and that any GOP candidate is going to have to overcome an Electoral College disadvantage.

He might have added that the Marco Rubio we see today is not the Marco Rubio we could see in early March after a desperate Jeb Bush has unloaded about $30 million in vicious, hateful ads in Florida media markets just prior to the Sunshine State’s winner-take-all primary. I don’t know what if any dirt Team Jeb has on Rubio, but I have zero doubt they will use whatever they’ve got. To borrow a term from Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign: PUMA!

So even if Marco Rubio looks like a general election winner to you, he’s got a long way to go and many treacherous forks in the road to navigate before he tries to figure out if he can avoid making Carly Fiorina his running-mate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.