When word leaked that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning to announce her candidacy on Sunday — one day prior to Sen. Marco’s scheduled announcement — the conventional wisdom seemed to be that she might overshadow him. Instead, she turned out to be the perfect foil, casting him as the clear contrast to Clinton.
(Joe Scarborough and I discussed this very point today on “Morning Joe.”)
“Just yesterday,” Rubio said, “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.”
You can probably expect some to cry “ageism,” but Rubio is playing this just about perfect. First, the “yesterday is over” line hearkens back to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” (“yesterday’s gone”), which, of course, was the Clinton-Gore ’92 theme.
Just as Bill Clinton defeated two heroic members of The Greatest Generation — arguing in one instance, that we needed a “bridge to the future” not a “bridge to the past” — Rubio’s message about passing the torch to a new generation transcends age. It’s also about old ideas. “We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past,” he declared. “We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”
The next line of attack on Rubio will predictably be that, as a first-term senator, he is too inexperienced for the presidency. (Personally, I think Rubio made a pretty compelling case to Kasie Hunt that he has vastly more experience than then-Sen. Barack Obama had in 2008.)
But if — having spent years criticizing Obama for his lack of experience makes it hypocritical for Republicans to now turn to a fresh-faced first-term senator — then there is hypocrisy on both sides. Presumably, Richard Nixon should have defeated Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole should have defeated Bill Clinton, and John McCain should have defeated Barack Obama …
An honest assessment of these historical examples suggests that sometimes America would have been better served by erring on the side of experience — but other times, it’s best to pass the torch. It’s hard to predict when new ideas should trump old experience. But regardless of what is the best choice, it does seem that voters tend to err on the side of youthful energy and ideas over experience, and that — coupled with his rhetorical ability — is one of the reasons Marco Rubio is so dangerous to Hillary Clinton … and Jeb Bush.
And they’re not the only ones who have reason to worry. Rubio’s announcement speech — largely biographical in nature — demonstrated he has a much more coherent rationale for the presidency than the other candidates who have previously announced. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul both gave fine speeches, sprinkled with applause lines, but Rubio embodies a larger narrative about the American Dream. You might vote for Cruz because of something he wants to do — like shuttering the IRS. But you’d vote for Rubio because of who he is, the feelings he viscerally inspires, and the ideas he represents — the American Dream he embodies.
You can watch our full “Morning Joe” segment here:
Note: Matt Lewis’ wife previously consulted for Ted Cruz’s senate campaign, and currently consults for RickPAC, the leadership PAC affiliated with Rick Perry.