Eliana Johnson spoke with “a top Republican operative” who says the Bush and Walker booms are fading:
The beneficiary in terms of buzz is Marco Rubio, who now has many of the party’s top donors looking at him in a way they weren’t even a month ago. Though Rubio hasn’t made as much noise as his competitors as the 2016 campaign has gotten underway in earnest, his knowledgeable presentations and obvious political talent are nonetheless turning heads or, at least, enough of them. Rubio hasn’t made a big splash, neither building a “shock and awe” campaign like Bush nor delivering a marquee speech like Walker (who afterward seemed almost to be caught off guard by his rapid ascent). Instead, Rubio appears to be gambling on the idea that, in what is sure to be a long primary with a crowded field, a slow-and-steady approach will prevail.
The buzz about Rubio comes on the heels of a successful but nonetheless low-profile book tour that took him through the early-primary states of Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire, and as the frenetic motion around Bush and Walker has begun to subside.
Rubio stepped in it big time when he tried to make an honest deal with Chuck Schumer on immigration. It was a fool’s errand from the start, designed by Schumer to soil a legitimate contender with GOP primary voters. Rubio seems to have learned his lesson, and performed a Full Mea Culpa at CPAC last month. Rubio isn’t just likable — he makes people want to like him, to allow themselves to like him. A little contrition on an important issue may have gone a long way towards restoring people’s desire to like Marco Rubio.
I still think Rubio suffers from a slight gravitas deficit, which may have been his impetus for attempting to deal with Schumer on major legislation. A Senator with no big bills bearing his name doesn’t exactly scream “President!” as we should have learned all-too-well these last six years or so.
But with a little seasoning, he still has big things in front of him.