The Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter writes: “When it comes to 2016, the media is fixated on Bridge-gate, Benghazi, and Bush (Jeb). Left out of the picture is the man that many assumed would be the frontrunner by now, Sen. Marco Rubio. The CW says that Rubio’s star has been dimmed (perhaps irreversibly so) by his championing of comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.” But she correctly points out that immigration may not invoke the same emotions a year or so from now (and in any case, we recall that Sen. John McCain of Arizona won the nomination a year after championing immigration reform. She opines:
Lost in the obsession over immigration, however, is Rubio’s most important attribute: his ability to help the GOP bridge their gaping “empathy gap.” . . . Rubio has a Bill Clinton-like ability to connect as a “regular guy,” who can “feel your pain.” His middle/working class upbringing gives him an ability to genuinely connect with those who are part of the “47%.” Talk to him about a policy issue and he’ll weave in stories about how it effects the single mom who lives in his neighborhood or the parents at his children’s Miami school.
All that is true, but it also raises the inevitable trade-offs that voters will need to make when confronted with real candidates in a real race. Sure the party might want a guy or gal with the record of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the ability to thrill the base like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rubio’s inspirational oratory, Ryan’s wonky policy ideas, Mitt Romney’s innate decency, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s pugnacious leadership, Jeb Bush’s maturity and former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton’s foreign policy toughness. Alas, there is no such character who combines all of these, and even a two-person ticket with a couple of these candidates (or with a VP like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez or New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte) won’t have all the qualities voters would want. And let’s be honest: Some of what voters want contradicts other must-haves. You usually can’t be an outsider and an experienced deal-maker. (It is funny, however, to watch someone candidates who’ve never worked in the private sector decry creatures of government.)
Pundits and party regulars give great weight to ideology, but even in the GOP, which is arguably more policy particular than the Democratic Party (which is based on doling out goodies to an array of constituencies), the nominee will have to have that presidential thing — call it gravitas or charisma. It’s the ability to project authority and to provide reassurance to the party and the country that he or she is worthy of trust. That is a personal and emotional choice relatively unique to the presidency. It is rarely evident at the start of a campaign with no incumbent or heir apparent; it emerges in the context of an actual campaign.
A presidential nominee is more than a laundry list of qualities and policy positions. If you don’t see someone of that ilk yet, just wait. Presidential campaigns have a way of thinning the herd and forcing candidates to measure up or get out.