Right Turn is on vacation, but we have left you with some thoughts on the top challenges facing likely presidential candidates. Today we’ll look at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who had arguably the worst 2013 of the GOP presidential aspirants by getting crosswise with anti-immigration reform hard-liners, disappointing hawks and confounding sensible conservatives who looked askance at his support for the shutdown. Rubio will need to re-establish gravitas and demonstrate toughness while making the case that he’s the future of the GOP. That will mean:
1. Becoming the youth candidate with an opportunity agenda on education, health care and jobs for young people facing a poor job market and carrying huge college debt.
2. Registering and attracting minority candidates to the primaries and caucuses. He then becomes the candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton by draining her base of support among traditional Democratic constituencies (e.g. minorities, millennials, working-class voters). He can castigate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as being late to the game and cynical in adopting issues he thinks these voters will buy.
3. Stressing his years in the state legislature and as Florida’s speaker of the House, thereby rebutting the idea that he’s a political novice or creature of D.C.
4. Presenting himself as the one candidate who can satisfy both GOP moderates and business interests as well as grass-roots conservatives.
5. Running as the sunny, Reagan-like candidate in contrast to the right-wingers who paint an apocalyptic vision of the future.
6. Staking out ground as the most pro-Israel, pro-freedom candidate on the right. (He’ll have stiff competition, but his strong positions on Iran sanctions and foreign aid votes will help define him as someone who has already shown his affection for the Jewish state.
7. Adopting a Jack Kemp, reform conservative outlook that stresses growth over green-eyeshade budgeting.
8. Showing some toughness in the debates akin to Ronald Reagan’s “I’m paying for this microphone” moment.
9. Fighting like Rick Santorum to beat expectations in Iowa, where he can connect with faith-based voters and excel at retail politics. He doesn’t need to win, but he’ll need to finish in the top few spots to rise above the pack and regain some allure as a top-tier candidate. (He is already making hay out of Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to run both for Senate and president, a gambit exemplifying D.C. careerism.)
10. Highlighting his immigrant experience as the embodiment of the American dream. It’s the most appealing quality he has and the one with which voters can most identify. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also bombed out on immigration reform in 2007, only to win the nomination in 2008. A “lesson learned” attitude will go a long way toward mending ties with the base.