Marco Rubio was demolished in his home state of Florida by Donald Trump. There are a lot of reasons people might not have voted for him in Florida and, well, pretty much everywhere else, but his defeat is significant in another way: it is a complete refutation of the RNC’s 2012 Republican autopsy.
After losing a Presidential election they thought easily winnable (so easily winnable, they believed, that Mitt Romney was reportedly shocked to find out he lost), Reince Priebus announced the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a sort of analysis of what went wrong and how the party could fix it. You can read the report here, but Talking Points Memo did a nice little write-up of the six main points to take away:
- Pass immigration reform
- Court minorities
- Endorse gay marriage
- Don’t talk solely in Republican code
- Emphasize state strength
- Stop reflexively supporting corporations
Rubio was part of the infamous Gang of Eight which attempted to pass immigration reform and was seen as a huge betrayal of the Tea Party wave he rode to the senate. He’s the son of Cuban immigrants and has done well with Cuban voters. He said gay marriage should be something left to the states rather than the Supreme Court—not exactly an embrace but, ahem, better than an outright condemnation. Although touting himself as the Florida senator, he did serve as Speaker of the House in the Florida legislature. And despite being a far-right neocon, he somehow deceived a lot of media figures to talk about him as though he were a moderate with cross-party appeal—and, admittedly, he did defeat Clinton in several head-to-head polls.
Trump, on the other hand, has made it clear since day one that there will be no immigration reform. He has slandered minorities. He said he would strongly consider appointing Supreme Court Justices that would overturn the decision on gay marriage. He talks in a way that is only comprehensible to the far-right. He is completely removed from politics (outside of being a donor/endorser). He is a rich man.
The reforms, genuine or not, make sense on paper. The demographics support the kinds of moves they planned to make. Problem is, the right has spent so much time speaking against all those points that a figurative left turn, however mild, was bound to alienate the base they’d fed nothing but vitriol for decades. The GOP has a decision to make: stick with the analysis they made several years ago in the hopes it will pay off in the long run, or do what probably feels right in their gut and give in to the pitchfork-wielding base that demands racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia.