When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke Friday at at 2015’s Conservative Political America Conference (CPAC), he left no one in doubt as to the degree of his conservatism. The CPAC gathering is the right audience for this, of course, where one looks to appeal to the Republican demographic, and particularly for Rubio, that means the far right. Like most candidates at this point, Rubio hasn’t made any outright decision on whether or not he’ll be running for president in 2016. But on Monday, he told Fox News that he will announce on April 13 whether he will be “running for president or the U.S. Senate.”
Rubio has certain advantages over other conservatives, but he’s hardly the leading candidate for his party. Even so, a lot could change in the coming months. Competitors may thin out, and increased name recognition and face time may alter public reception of various presidential hopefuls.
Rubio’s record: Immigration
Immigration is one of the few subjects Rubio has taken a strong departure from his party on in the past — but he’s looking back on past liberalism in that area with self-criticism. In 2013, he sponsored a bill that his fellow conservatives would have considered pro-amnesty. In reference to his past support of the measure, he joked, “It wasn’t very popular. I don’t know if you know that from some of the folks here.” He went on to discuss his family background, and the importance of America in changing the lives of his parents and creating opportunities for himself. “For me, America isn’t just a country. It’s the place that literally changed the history of my family.”
But even with that being said, Rubio is no longer looking for exceptions to be made for certain illegal immigrants, as we see with President Barack Obama. Instead, he is critical of Obama’s method, and says preventing illegal workers from getting jobs is the best may to prevent illegal immigration. Indeed, with the job market slump in certain sectors that commonly employ illegal immigrants, illegal border crossing into America did slow during the recession, so there is logic to this strategy. However there is a considerable reversal in political opinion on immigration over a short time, and despite his apologetic tone, it’s questionable whether all conservatives will trust his position on the issue. On the other hand, given his overall strongly right-wing tendency, it’s almost easier to buy the new, more aggressively anti-amnesty rhetoric, especially outlined as a constitutional issue.
Rubio’s record: Education
“We’re basically having the industrial revolution every five years,” said Rubio. “They think that if we just pour more money, more of your money, into the same programs that didn’t even work that well in the past, you’re going to get us out of this.” And that’s making it harder for America to compete globally, he argues.
“Globalization is real. we are now in competition with dozens of other countries,” said Rubio, going on to demand a more competitive business environment (i.e., taxing and regulating business less). But he says improvement also necessitates an improved education system. Once again, this predictably means less government regulation of the education system, making school of choice the law of the land, and obviously an end to the Common Core.
He also de-emphasized a four year degree, arguing that “some of the best jobs require more than high school, traditional high school, but less than four years of college.” While he notes that college education still matters, he made it clear that he considers the job market an open doorway for “vocational careers” like “plumber, electricians, welders,” and so on, as opposed to majors like “Greek philosophy.”
Rubio’s record: Same-sex marriage and abortion
On social issues, Rubio won’t appeal to a wide spread of voters, and unfortunately for Republicans, social conservatism is often one of the more alienating factors. There are many voters who may support small government and debt reduction, but for whom same-sex marriage and women’s health may be deal breakers. In Florida, Rubio has been quite vocal in criticizing his state’s court proceedings in favor of same-sex marriage, arguing that the court does not have the power to change the law on marriage and that it is a constitutional issue. He has given lip service to “respect” for people on both sides of the issue “seeking greater legal protections,” but counts himself among those “who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty,” as reported by Politico.
On the issue of abortion, Rubio has been supportive of the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act,” and strongly against abortion, to the extent of preventing even lifesaving cases or abortion in the case of rape or incest. He has also introduced a bill back in 2012 that would have reduced coverage of birth control on a mass scale.
Rubio’s record: Obamacare
“So here’s the problem that we face in the party. There’s a dispute between those who simply think our job is to do a better job of managing the government and those who understand that we are at a crossroad moment in our history,” said Rubio when asked about his party’s insincerity in taking down Obamacare at all costs. In November, Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) worked together on a new plan health insurance option to exchange for Obamacare, however a gridlocked Congress and opposing president hardly helps move efforts of that nature along. Rubio has also taken hits for enrolling in the health care plan himself for his family. The counterpoint to that is that he was merely following the law as it necessitated while still strongly opposing Obamacare and working to change it, calling it a “disaster” according to the Tampa Bay Times. According to The Weekly Standard, both Rubio and Gov. Scott Walker (R) have listed repealing Obamacare as a major priority, just under economic concerns.
Rubio in the polls
With Jeb Bush leading many polls on Republican candidates, a comparison between the two politicians is expected given their history together. Both Rubio and Bush have roots in Florida, where Bush was something of a role model for Rubio in the past. This makes the possibility that Rubio might compete with Bush “a bit unusual,” as Rubio described it. “I think he’s proving he’s going to be a very formidable candidate. I just believe if you think the best place to serve your country is to run for and hopefully win the presidency,” said Rubio, “You move forward on that irrespective of who else is in the race. If I ran, it wouldn’t be against him.”
There’s also the fact that many in his state don’t want him to run. That isn’t to say they won’t vote for him, but merely that they prefer him as a Senator representing their state. This could indicate a degree of uncertainty as to his viability. He won’t run for the Senate if he’s aiming for the presidency, but if he loses, he’ll be out of the game completely as a politician speaking on their behalf.
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- Here’s Why 2016 Election Analyses Can Be Such a Pain
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