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Brent Budowsky: Marco Rubio’s moment

Greg Nash

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) is the most interesting GOP presidential candidate in the 2016 field, a field that is becoming a party embarrassment and will soon have more candidates than FIFA has indicted officials.

It includes candidates who are egotistical vanity players, unelectable rightist ideologues, talk show wannabes and book sale promoters, and it features only one woman, whose only qualification is a failed tenure as a CEO and whose only purpose in the campaign would be to act as the female Republican stalking the female Democrat who could be America’s first female president.

{mosads}May 2015 was when Rubio clearly entered the top tier of GOP candidates. June 2015 can be his moment. He has achieved a significant national audience and will be closely watched by political insiders, Republicans in key states, media commentators and interested voters to determine whether he has the stature, depth and gravitas to lead the nation.

Far too much has been made by pundits of “the Bushes against the Clintons.” Like most overused cliches, this entirely misses the essential point of presidential politics in 2016.

American voters, bless their hearts, want two things that are difficult to reconcile in one presidential candidate. They want a president who embodies real and powerful change from a political status quo that has been widely discredited, and they want experience in governing that will reassure them the next president will have the right stuff to expertly lead a complicated government and manage an imperfect economy in a dangerous world.

For our purpose today, let’s consider Marco Rubio versus Jeb Bush in the Republican contest, and Marco Rubio versus Hillary Clinton in a potential general election match-up.

Rubio is moving to stake out solid ground as the demographically appealing voice of a next-generation Republican who is young, respected, Hispanic and aspires to be known as the voice of the future.

Clinton has seized the solid ground of a demographically appealing leader of high competence and vast experience — as a former first lady and closest confidante of a very successful president, as a former U.S. senator and as secretary of State. She is one of the most admired women in America and throughout the world.

By contrast, Bush reminds me of the Beatles song about the nowhere man. He is perceived by voters as neither the next-generation voice of change, compared with Rubio, nor the vastly qualified voice of experience, compared with Clinton.

I have previously written on The Hill’s Contributors blog that Bush is the most overrated candidate in the GOP race and Rubio the most underrated candidate.

Bush will raise tons of money, but money can’t buy him love. It speaks volumes that while Clinton is the dominating front-runner on the Democratic side, Bush is just one member of a crowded GOP pack with high negative ratings.

The challenge for Rubio is to cross the divide and prove that the next-generation candidate of dynamism and change with potentially powerful appeal to Hispanics and young voters possesses presidential-caliber experience to make voters feel confident, safe and secure, a threshold he is far from crossing today.

The challenge for Clinton is to cross the other divide and prove that the candidate of vast experience and powerful appeal to women can become a champion of change and a voice for the future who is widely trusted by voters, which today she is not.

Because Clinton is so widely known, the eyes of the political world will now turn to the Florida senator, who will prove his presidential stature — or disprove it — by the way he conducts himself in the coming weeks and months.

It is Marco Rubio’s moment. He has earned the attention of the political world as a legitimate first-tier candidate with potentially powerful national appeal. Whether he appears as a dynamic next-generation leader or an insufficiently experienced novice will determine whether we are witnessing a future president or a brief moment that soon passes. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at

Tags Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio

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