Now that Hillary Clinton has made her intentions for 2016 public, announcing her run for the presidency on Sunday before launching into a trip to Iowa, it’s only a matter of time before other candidates take the final step toward committing to a campaign.
On the Democratic side, Clinton is the first and only contender at the moment, with former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafe, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley considering bids. On the Republican side, there are a couple of officially announced contenders, specifically, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Very soon, we’ll be able to add Marco Rubio to the list of fighters in the red corner, as he has plans to announce his decision to run scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday.
Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one with a list of firsts
Rubio would be the youngest president thus far if he were elected, the first president from Florida, and the first Hispanic president. But despite his background and short-lived attempt to pull parts of the Republican Party toward comprehensive immigration reform (in the face of party disapproval, at that), the Latino vote is not secured for Rubio.
According to a poll by Latino Decisions, a polling group looking specifically at the Latino vote, the organization stated that it found “no evidence that Rubio’s candidacy will draw significant Latino support for his candidacy or for his party more generally.”
Respondents found Rubio unfavorable more often than not, with 36% saying he is an unfavorable 2016 candidate, compared to 31% categorizing him in a positive light, 13% saying they hadn’t heard of him, and 20% saying they have no opinion. Clinton is also not the only 2016 contender to make her announcement in Miami; Rubio will be heading for his home state to make his, as well.
The good, the bad, and the voters
Rubio has some strong qualifications on first glance in terms of demographic appeal, but upon delving into his ability to balance sides politically, he leaves something to be desired.
“He checks a lot of boxes for Republicans,” said Nicol C. Rae, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at Montana State University, who spoke to the Florida Sun Sentinel. “Marco’s life story is a good one for the Republicans. He’s not a rich kid. Not a son of privilege” — as Jeb Bush would undoubtedly be categorized. “A lot of middle-class, blue-collar voters could identify with Marco in a way that, perhaps, they couldn’t with some of the other candidates.”
But that doesn’t make him the favorite in the polls, and it doesn’t mean he knows how to balance Republican interests with appeals to the middle class. Rubio is also hardly the only candidate taking aim at middle-class Americans. In Real Clear Politics’ study of polling data, Rubio comes in seventh place, behind Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee.
Paul, Walker, and Bush are targeting that middle-class demographic, even if they can’t all ascribe to a middle-class upbringing. Bush’s “Right to Rise” group is firmly planted in middle-class rhetoric about improving the economy and reviving the American dream. Paul has been making his own efforts to diversify the Republican Party. And, of course, there are the Democrats.
With Clinton leading potential candidates across the aisle, it’s true that she’s alienated quite a few middle-class voters with some of her commentary from her book Hard Choices about struggling financially, and there is some doubt about how in touch she is with what being an “average” American really means.
However, the Democratic Party has long drawn those in the middle class with more conviction than the right, so it will start with a leg up against its opponents in this area.
And, of course, there’s the question of Rubio’s ability to appeal to independents or swing voters outside of the Republican Party’s usual votes while still maintaining a crucial relationship with his own party and the large majority of its constituents — something he doesn’t necessarily have a great track record doing.
Even so, based on criteria having to do with Rubio’s level of conservatism, FiveThirtyEight places him near the top of contenders despite negative polling results. Perhaps given time and a strong campaign, conditions could change for Rubio.