MIAMI — At Freedom Tower in Miami Monday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
“[G]rounded by the lessons of our history, and inspired by the promise of our future, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America,” he told an assembled crowd of supporters to raucous applause.
Here are three takeaways from Rubio’s speech and entrance into the presidential race.
1.) Rubio’s Message Will Be Loved By Many Conservative Intellectuals
Rubio may quickly become the candidate of the conservative intelligentsia because he is echoing a theme many conservative thinkers — particularly conservative foreign policy thinkers — have been promulgating for the better part of a decade.
Pushing back against the widespread notion that China is rising and is set to make the 21st Century a Chinese Century, conservative thinkers like Charles Krauthammer and others have argued that such a scenario is hardly inevitable. America has it in its power to make the 21st Century another American Century, the argument goes, if its leaders just adopt the right policies. Or, as Krauthammer put it in a 20o9 essay in the Weekly Standard, “Decline is a choice.”
Rubio has explicitly adopted this argument as his campaign theme, with his slogan being: “Marco Rubio: A New American Century.”
“I chose to make this announcement at the Freedom Tower because it is a symbol of our nation’s identity as the land of opportunity,” he said opening his speech. “And I am more confident than ever that despite our troubles, we have it within our power to make our time another American Century.”
“Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century,” he said later in the speech, before outlining the policies — like tax and immigration reform, and a more engaged American foreign policy — that are needed to ensure it.
“If their American Dreams become impossible, we will have become just another country. But if they succeed, the 21st Century will be another American Century,” he said at another point. “This will be the message of my campaign and the purpose of my presidency.”
But beyond being attractive to a certain group of conservative foreign policy thinkers, this theme has the potential to appeal to a much broader audience — one that longs, after the Age of Obama, for an American revival.
2.) Rubio Will Use Hillary’s Age And “Experience” Against Her
You better believe the 43-year-old senator will make Hillary Clinton’s age — 67 — an issue.
“[T]oo many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the twentieth century,” Rubio said during his speech.
“They are busy looking backward, so they do not see how jobs and prosperity today depend on our ability to compete in a global economy,” he continued. “So our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing, borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999,” he added, implicitly taking a jab at Hillary Clinton, who if you don’t remember just happened to be living in the White House in 1999.
Later in the speech, Rubio’s attack on Hillary’s “experience” was more explicit.
“This election is not just about what laws we will pass. It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be,” he said. “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday.”
“But yesterday is over, and we are never going back,” he continued, digging the knife into Hillary.
Today versus yesterday is clearly a framing Rubio relishes. It’s one that works well against Hillary. It’s also one that works well against one of his biggest Republican primary challengers, a 62-year-old Jeb Bush. Don’t be surprised if Rubio uses the narrative to take on his one-time mentor as well.
3.) Rubio’s Not Writing Off Anyone
Daily Caller executive editor Vince Coglianese noticed something strange in the U.S. map Rubio’s campaign is using for its signs.
— Vince Coglianese (@TheDCVince) April 13, 2015
I jokingly asked Rubio press secretary Alex Conant at a press scrum here in Miami before the senator’s speech whether Alaska and Hawaii’s exclusion meant that the senator was writing off those states. “We’re not writing off any votes. We’re going to try to win every vote,” he said after taking a look at the image.
More seriously, Rubio doesn’t appear to be writing off any particularly constituency, both within the Republican Party and out. Like the other presidential candidates who have announced so far — namely, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — Rubio will appear on Fox News “Hannity” Monday night after his announcement speech. But he also gave an interview earlier Monday to former Bill Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos that will appear on ABC Monday night and Tuesday morning. The takeaway? Rubio is ready from day one to pitch himself not only to conservative audiences, but to all audiences.
Unlike Cruz and Paul, Rubio doesn’t fit neatly into a particular “bracket.” He isn’t running against the so-called Republican establishment, and he isn’t a tool of it (whatever that means). He appeals to voters across all brackets — establishment and anti-establishment, religious and secular, tax and foreign policy hawks, etc.
While Rubio hasn’t so far registered significantly in polls taken in the early primary states, a March Wall Street Journal poll did find that more Republican voters — 56 percent — could imagine voting for Rubio than any other potential Republican contender. He bested Scott Walker by 3 percentage points, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul by 7 percentage points, Ted Cruz by 16 percentage points and Chris Christie by a whopping 24 percentage points.
In other words, Rubio’s potential appeal is broad.