Standing in a poorly lit room on Tuesday night, a chastened [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] declared that it’s “not God’s plan that [Rubio] be president in 2016—or maybe ever.”
… So you’re saying there’s a chance?
To be sure, this was a humiliating loss; Rubio won only his home county, while losing the rest of his home state of Florida. But does that spell the end of his political career? Politics can surprise us.
Consider the case of Richard Nixon, who lost a 1962 bid for governor in his home state of California. This was especially humiliating, inasmuch as Nixon had been a two-term vice president—and had very narrowly lost a bid for president in 1960. In the wake of that stinging rebuke, Nixon told the media: “You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference…”
Six years later, Nixon would win the presidency—and the media got to kick him around a lot more.
Like Nixon did after that 1962 loss, Rubio now heads into the wilderness. And I think this is good. We can’t miss you if you don’t go away. His chance of winning the presidency (should he run again some day) probably increases the further away from the U.S. Senate he gets.
The problem with the Nixon analogy, of course, is that Nixon had a long shelf life. His appeal (unlike John Kennedy, who defeated Nixon in 1960) was never based on generational change or hope or optimism. In this regard, his message in 1968 was probably more akin to Donald Trump’s appeal than to Rubio’s.
Voters might have later regretted electing the cynical pol, but Nixon certainly tapped into the Republican base’s zeitgeist. Rubio did not. As Ross Douthat noted, part of Rubio’s problem was that he had “a youthful mien in a ‘hard man for hard times’ election.” If Marco Rubio decides to make a comeback, at least part of his appeal will be gone. But he will gain experience and wisdom.
It would be ironic if, a decade from now, the Republican primary electorate is clamoring for a young and energetic candidate. If there’s one thing this election has taught us, it’s that politics is unpredictable. The political environment changes, and what the public rewards today it may punish tomorrow.
For now, Rubio can make money and enjoy his family. He can spend some time gaining wisdom and knowledge and age—while he’s waiting on the world to change. And maybe fate will smile on him.
Controversial British politician Enoch Powell once famously declared that “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”
Yes, political lives must come to an end, but is this the end for Rubio’s political life?
Sometimes, resurrections do happen.