Newspaper article Roll Call

Can Marco Rubio Save the GOP in 2016?

Newspaper article Roll Call

Can Marco Rubio Save the GOP in 2016?

Article excerpt

The Republican presidential field looks unusually diverse this cycle -- an African-American (Ben Carson), an Indian-American (Bobby Jindal), a woman (Carly Fiorina) and a Hispanic, or, if you prefer, a Cuban (Marco Rubio). One candidate is married to a Hispanic originally from Mexico (Jeb Bush).

There is even a Canadian in the field.

Oh, wait. That can't be.

The Canadian actually is half Cuban (Ted Cruz), so that really makes one-and-a-half Cubans in the race.

For a political party that relies overwhelmingly on the votes of whites, that's a pretty diverse group.

But most of the candidates frequently mentioned as being in the top tier in the Republican race -- Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul -- are non-Hispanic white men. The lone exception is Rubio.

(Some observers also include Cruz and potentially Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich in the top tier. But Cruz's style and ideological rigidity limit his ultimate appeal, both in the GOP and, more importantly, in November. Kasich is merely another white guy.)

With whites constituting a smaller percentage of the general- election electorate over the past two decades -- from 85 percent of the electorate in 1988 to 77 percent in 2004, 72 percent in 2012 and probably no more than 70 percent next year -- and Republicans faring poorly with blacks, Latinos and even Asian-Americans, GOP strategists are looking to make the party more welcoming and appealing to minority voters.

Given his background, Rubio would seem to have a general- election appeal other top-tier hopefuls don't have.

Paul, of course, argues his more tolerant positions on cultural issues make him more appealing to younger voters, while his free- market approach to immigration enhances his appeal among Hispanic voters.

But Paul's views on foreign policy and national security seem at odds with most of his party, and while libertarians have a foothold in the GOP, the party is dominated by traditional conservatives, most of whom aren't the least bit comfortable with the libertarian approach to foreign policy or cultural issues.

Bush speaks fluent Spanish, and his wife and children, who presumably would be on the stump with him from time to time, would help him paint a different picture of the GOP. Moreover, the former Florida governor's positions on immigration and his emphasis on education as governor of Florida could give him an entree into the minority community and with younger voters.

But Bush's family tree is a very mixed blessing, and it makes it difficult for the establishment favorite to present himself as a vehicle for change and to appeal to distrustful conservatives.

And Walker?

The Wisconsin governor's appeal to the GOP base is understandable. He took on organized labor and state employees in 2011, when he sought to limit collective bargaining rights in the state -- yet he is a conservative Republican from the upper Midwest whose style seems more measured than some of his angrier, confrontational colleagues in the race. …

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