Demolition Derby in Florida
Can Marco Rubio prevail?
Aug 9, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 44 • By FRED BARNES
America’s greatness “didn’t happen automatically, didn’t happen accidentally, and won’t continue automatically,” he says. Voters must choose the future they want. Here’s how Rubio described the choice to me:
That’s a pretty stark choice. But “people are looking for voices that offer them serious choices, policy choices,” Rubio insists.
The key point in Rubio’s speech, apart from his defense of American exceptionalism, is economic growth. “You can’t build your national defenses if your economy is not generating revenue that will pay for it, and you can’t pay down your debt,” he says.
His speech emphasizes the big picture, but Rubio also has a wonkish underside. Last week, he put out a dozen “simple ways to cut spending,” starting with cuts of 10 percent in the budgets of the White House and Congress. Earlier, he announced 12 ways to “grow our economy” and 11 to “help the Gulf Coast economy to recover.” His economic ideas include permanently extending the Bush tax cuts and ending “job-destroying double taxation of capital gains, dividends, or death.”
In 2005, Rubio circulated books with blank pages, asking people to write down their “innovative ideas for Florida’s future.” It was a stunt that worked. The next year, he published a book with the 100 best ideas. “We passed all 100 of them in the House [and] 57 of them became law or policy in the state of Florida,” he says. The ideas “are all over the place.”
As a candidate, Rubio is rigidly disciplined. He refuses to discuss campaign tactics and strategy. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed him last month about extremism in the Tea Party movement, Rubio stressed his free market message. Tea Party people “want to see policies implemented at the highest levels of government that will keep us exceptional,” he said.
When I interviewed Rubio, he answered nearly every question with snatches from his speech, no matter what I asked. Will a significant bloc of Democrats vote for Crist, as polls currently indicate? “I don’t really break the electorate down that way,” Rubio said. Then he invoked his idea of an electorate that chooses between candidates who like the country’s direction and those who don’t.
Who might the Obama White House throw its weight behind in the general election, Crist or the Democratic nominee? When his four kids are grown, “they’re not going to be talking about who the White House supported,” he said. They’re going to be talking about whether the country chose the right direction in 2010.
Rather than challenge Crist in the Republican primary, Rubio was urged to run for state attorney general. What was his wife’s advice?
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