Since Silver was the only one who was right last November, maybe everyone should pay attention.
Since winning his Senate seat, Mr. Rubio has generally sided with other Republicans as part of a party that has steadily grown more conservative over the last three decades. (Mr. Rubio’s recent support for immigration reform is more of an exception than his usual rule of sticking to the party line.)
Being reliably conservative, however, is hardly a liability for someone who might hope to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Indeed, one reason to watch Mr. Rubio carefully is that, among the candidates who will be deemed reliably conservative by Republican voters and insiders, he may stand the best chance of maintaining a reasonably good image with general election voters.
As always, Silver uses rather involved methodology to come to his conclusions about just how conservative Rubio is. For those who want to skip ahead:
Nevertheless, we can usually get a reasonably good objective measurement of a candidate’s ideology by essentially taking an average of the three approaches. (Because the measures are not on the same scale, I normalize Mr. Bonica’s scores and the OnTheIssues.org scores to give them the same mean and standard deviation as DW-Nominate.) The higher the score, the more conservative the candidate.
DW-Nominate scores normally run on a scale that goes from negative 1 for an extremely liberal candidate to positive 1 for an extremely conservative one. To make the result more legible, I have multiplied all scores by 100 — so that, for instance, a moderate Republican might have a score of 25 rather than 0.25. Mr. Rubio achieves a score of 51 by this method. What does that mean, exactly?
The last two Republican presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, had a score of 39 by comparison, meaning that they were more moderate than Mr. Rubio. Mr. Rubio is also rated as being to the right of Ronald Reagan, who had a score of 44, and George W. Bush, who had a score of 46. Among Republican presidential nominees since 1960, in fact, only the extraordinarily conservative Barry Goldwater, who had a score of 67, rates as being more conservative than Mr. Rubio.
While I detest the word electable, I am very fond of the word conservative. We don’t do well when focused on the former and, contrary to the narrative, tend to have success when focused on the latter. There’s also the fact that Rubio scares the hell out of the Democrats, which is why he, along with Ted Cruz, are favorite targets of the MSM advance attack hit pieces. They’ve been worried about him since he was in second place in the Florida Senate primary in 2010, which is when the attacks started.
So, drink up, Sen. Rubio, it could get interesting.