The young Republican senator could be the first Hispanic President of the United Statesby Sam Tanenhaus / May 21, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
The 2016 United States presidential election, now in its opening phase, reflects the curious swapping of identities that has overtaken America’s two major parties. The Democrats, for many years a quarrelsome overstuffed tent of “special interest groups,” have set aside their differences in a feat of lockstep discipline that threatens to make the coronation of Hillary Clinton, the first lady of American politics whose “turn” has come, an 18-month marathon of brain-numbing, on-message “unity.” It used to be Republicans, devoted to the “next in line” principle, who anointed nominees that way, but it has yielded a string of unloved and out-of-touch also-rans: Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Now they’ve embraced the carnival free-for-all. It says much that of the 19 people jostling noisily at the gate, the real estate mogul and media jester Donald Trump is not the darkest horse in the field—thanks to the presence of two others who have never held elected office: Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon and inspirational memoirist, and Carly Fiorina, a former CEO best known for mismanaging the tech giant Hewlett-Packard through the tumult of 30,000 layoffs and a plunging stock price.
Then again, this is merely the prelude. The first true nominating contest, the all-important Iowa caucus, won’t be held until 1st February. Two formidable contenders, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, have yet to declare. They may need to soon, however, because a politician more naturally gifted than either, Senator Marco Rubio, has become an early favourite and is being discussed with excitement of the kind once generated by Barack Obama. A 43-year-old Miami native and son of Cuban immigrants who played football in high school and college, Rubio has risen with improbable speed from Florida state legislator to “top tier” contender. He begins his day by reading economic policy papers on his iPad, and has undergone crash tutoring in foreign policy. He recently assured ex-diplomats and national security experts that he will “set forth a doctrine for the exercise of American influence in the world… [and will] adhere to that doctrine with the principled devotion that has marked the bipartisan tadition of presidential leadership from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan.”