I keep telling you that if Marco Rubio gets the Republican presidential nomination he will absolutely win the general election, in large part because the mainstream media hates both Democratic candidates and will embrace Rubio as a likable fratboy-turned-dad, just the way the press embraced George W. Bush in 2000. (Remember, this year the Democrat won't really be able to run on peace and prosperity, which kept Gore in the race sixteen years ago.)
Still don't believe me? Read this, from Michael Barbaro and Jeremy Peters in The New York Times, and watch the Rubio-media love affair begin:
Marco Rubio Turns Toward the Personal on the Campaign Trail
... as the presidential campaign enters its most intense phase yet, Mr. Rubio’s cautious style has quietly but unmistakably evolved, shedding its impersonal rime and offering intimate -- and increasingly improvised -- glimpses into his childhood, his family and even his finances.
... When a mother described the toll of raising an autistic child, Mr. Rubio spoke for seven emotional minutes about watching the 2-year-old daughter of a family friend wrestle with the disorder. And when a libertarian asked him about the excesses of the criminal justice system, Mr. Rubio told the story of his own run-in with the police when he was 18.
As he reconstructed a loud night of beer drinking in a Miami park, Mr. Rubio stopped himself and smiled. “Please don’t tell my kids,” he asked his audience playfully.
... As voting neared in the Iowa caucuses last week, Mr. Rubio’s speeches about America at the brink and the perfidy of President Obama suddenly contained a disarming detail about his father: Mario Rubio was a Cuban native, and his English was so poor when he arrived in the United States, his son recalled, that he needed a cousin to write down a phonetic message for him to recite to potential employers: “I am looking for work.”
He's empathetic! He's a regular guy! He has a compelling backstory! Oh, and did we mention the time he made a voter cry? A Democratic-leaning voter?
Carol-Ann Fitzgerald, 58, who describes herself as “more Democratic than Republican,” said she teared up on Thursday afternoon when Mr. Rubio recalled his father’s trouble finding work when he immigrated from Cuba. It was, she said, the story of her own father, a French-speaking immigrant from Canada.
“That’s what hit home for me,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.
Even Rubio's weaknesses are discussed only in the context of his perceived strengths:
But the newly personal and unguarded approach to campaigning is a recognition that the assets he has worked hardest to develop -- mastery of foreign policy, and a bruising critique of the Obama era -- are not enough by themselves to capture the hearts of voters. And that the ones he was born with -- a compelling family history and an innate charm -- will only grow more important as he appeals to broader sections of the electorate.
It is also a reminder that Mr. Rubio, for all his dexterity as a public speaker, did not start campaigning for president full time until December. He required time, advisers said, to become comfortable with the daily rhythms of interacting with and fielding questions from hundreds of voters from morning until night.
So if he's been stiff and robotic on the campaign trail in the past, it's because he was working so hard to develop a "mastery of foreign policy" and a "critique of the Obama era" that's "bruising" -- oh, and you can't blame him for being less than brilliant in the past, because he "did not start campaigning for president full time until December," and it's hard, darn it, to spend one's days selflessly "interacting with and fielding questions from hundreds of voters from morning until night." And yet we mustn't forget that "a compelling family history and an innate charm" were gifts "he was born with," nor must we overlook his innate "dexterity as a public speaker."
Wow, New York Times. When are you popping the question?
This dovetails with what we learn from Mickey Kaus, who loathes Rubio, after he attended a Rubio campaign event:
Was Rubio really as slick and insubstantial in this setting as John Edwards? Answer: No. He’s slicker. He’s slicker, in part, because he at least seems a bit spontaneous, ... with a slightly goofy, human quality....
When it comes to substance, Rubio draws on an inventory of well-prepared rhetorical modules, with just enough policy to sound sophisticated.... There’s a heavy emphasis on electability.... Tellingly, however, Rubio has added a Trump Module, where he alludes to anger at stagnant wages.
He’s got an immigration module too. It ... adopt[s] what seems to be an Enforcement First framework, in which “nothing” happens, amnesty-wise, until the border is “secure.” ... Rubio prefaces all this with a digression on ISIS, and how it’s changed the immigration debate: Because our top priority has to be to “keep ISIS out of this country.” ... the audience loves it. The ISIS digression gets the biggest applause of the day.
All of this is mildly terrifying. If Rubio’s a “robot,” as many have charged, he’s a sophisticated new model robot with simulated humanistic elements and a charm algorithm.
Bernie Sanders can be charming, but even though you may have seen him be charming, you "know" -- because the press always reduces him to this -- that he's just an angry, fist-shaking old crank. And you "know" that Hillary Clinton is just a shrill, braying harridan, because that's what you're always told, even though she can be charming, too.
By November, if he's the nominee, everyone will "know" that Marco Rubio is the most likable Republican in a generation, and that he's smart as a whip, and that he has an extraordinarily moving life story. I'm going to keep saying it: Be afraid.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog