News & Politics

Marco Rubio, the GOP's Very Own Barack Obama, II

First term senator? Check. Inexperienced and callow? Ambitious and duplicitous? Haughty and aloof? Check. Marco Rubio is our Obama:

Marco ­Rubio no doubt wants to sit behind the big desk in the Oval Office. What is not so clear is how hard he is willing to work to get there.

Republican activists — including many who appreciate Rubio’s formidable political gifts and view him as the party’s best hope for beating Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton — say they are alarmed at his seeming disdain for the day-to-day grind of retail politics. Even some staunch supporters are anxious.

“Rubio has not put in the face time that he really needs to have, I don’t think,” said Al Phillips, an influential South Carolina pastor who backs Rubio. “I think that’s been somewhat to his detriment.”

That may be, as some of his allies fret privately, a sign of overconfidence in his own abilities. Or it may be a smart strategic decision that the personal touch is overrated in an era in which celebrity billionaire Donald Trump is leading the field with a campaign that consists largely of mega-rallies, barrages of tweets and television interviews that are literally phoned in.

Pressing the flesh wasn’t a top priority for Obama either, come to think. But there is one group that Rubio is more than happy to snuggled up to:

And Rubio is certainly capable of turning on the charm with one key constituency: deep-pocketed donors. He recently secured support from billionaire hedge fund managers Paul Singer and Kenneth Griffin. He’s believed to be the favorite to win over billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

At his town halls, Rubio generally answers no more than a handful of questions. Leaders of grass-roots organizations grumble that it is difficult to entice him to speak at their events. And Rubio has limited interaction with the news media who cover him.

“Is his campaign a little more superficial than that of other people in his bracket in New Hampshire? I think the answer is yes,” said former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Fergus Cullen, who is neutral in the race.

A top party official from a critical swing state who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a topic of increasing sensitivity in GOP circles said that other contenders are becoming familiar faces to voters there. “The big question is, where is Marco Rubio? People have tried to get him to attend stuff, and he just hasn’t,” the state party leader said.

Sound familiar?