Marco Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party and is currently the early Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential election. Will his ethnicity aid him in the 2016 presidential race?
As the son of hardworking Cuban immigrants who came to America in search of a better life for their children, Rubio’s family history may broaden his appeal to second-generation or third-generation Americans. However, as Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto states, “blood isn’t necessarily thicker than partisanship.” Shared ethnicity does not guarantee crossover Latino voters. So let’s look at his record and see if his previous accomplishments have enough merit to carry him through a presidential election.
Rubio espouses Republican principles such as limited government, fiscal responsibility, family values and Christian faith. From 2000 to 2008, he served as representative for the 111th district in the Florida House of Representatives. He then was elected to the United States Senate in 2010.
In 2000, he defeated Democrat Anastasia M. Garcia, 72%-28% in a special election for the Florida House of Representatives. He ran unopposed and was again re-elected in November 2000, 2002, and 2006. In 2004 he won re-election with 66% of the vote. Rubio won the U.S. Senate race in 2010 with 49% of the vote, defeating Charlie Crist, running as an Independent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek. Studies carried out in late March 2012 suggested that Rubio enjoyed a 61% overall approval rating in the U.S. Senate, with 83% approval from Republicans and 53% from Independents. 48% of Democrats disapproved of Rubio’s actions in the Senate.
How did Rubio focus his energies in the Florida House of Representatives? Under his leadership, the Florida House passed legislation reforming policies on homeowners insurance, energy, transportation and education. The bulk of Rubio’s goals, outlined in his 2006 publication, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future, focused on education reform.
Critics of Rubio’s rhetoric label him as superficial, asserting that he, like the GOP, fails to understand the party’s critical need for reform. Others suggest that Rubio champions policies that benefit the middle class and those who aspire to be the middle class. This message could resonate to voters who make less than $50,000 a year as well as voters in the Hispanic community.
Polls show that Rubio appeals to a large conservative base and is also viewed favorably by independents. However, as the 2016 GOP front-runner, Rubio should be wary of falling into the same trap that befell Mitt Romney. His affiliation with the Tea Party could prove harmful in the future. With a largely conservative base, Rubio needs to formulate messages that appeal to moderate as well as conservative voters in order to avoid a repeat of the drastic and telling 2012 election results.
Even with his popularity and achievements, Marco Rubio may face tough competitors such as Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination. If he were to become the official GOP candidate, he could be running against an equally challenging competitor, including Hillary Clinton or Julian Castro. The GOP has to change if they want to have a future. Because of his youth, his ethnicity, his accomplishments, and his popularity, Marco Rubio may just be the change the Republican Party needs.