After canceling last week on urgent Senate business, Sen. Marco Rubio made good on his promise to stop by the Daily Show and have a chat with Jon Stewart— one that extended three segments longer than what aired on television, deep into policy detail. But even more interesting than Sen. Rubio delicately dismantling most of the Stewart opinions that go unchecked on his program nightly was how transparently frustrated Sen. Rubio is with being a legislator, a not-so-subtle hint that he is looking to find himself a place where he can get more done.
“I learned many things from this book– one, you married up, let’s not lie,” Stewart began the interview, joking about Sen. Rubio’s wife and his college days as a “not very good” football player. They didn’t spend too much time on pleasantries, however, diving straight into immigration. Explaining that he considered the issue “oversimplified on both sides,” Sen. Rubio argued that much of the Senate “wanted to talk about immigration, they felt that it had been a very bad experience” when they last revisited it in 2005.
Calling the increase in Republicans filibusters recently “very Senateyish,” Sen. Rubio tried to explain that the problem with the Senate is the majority party won’t allow Republicans to vote on many amendments– “until last week, when they specifically lined up 7-8 votes to avoid my ability to come on your show.” On a serious note, he argued that Democrats were “trying to protect their incumbents from voting on these difficult issues,” meaning that the minority party had to either add amendments to irrelevant bills because “that’s the only vehicle moving” or simply not have a say in ideas.
“So all that is happening because the Democrats are so bad?” Stewart asked mockingly, though Sen. Rubio’s reply seemed to indicate it was more of a Congressional problem than one with the Democrats. He declined to say whether one or the other party is to blame, but he didn’t accept that Republicans had an “accountability issue,” either. The interview gave the impression that Sen. Rubio was severely frustrated with the process, though coming from an exclusively legislative background before going to the Senate. And that frustration is important, first and foremost, to understand the dynamic between Sen. Rubio and the Republican Party.
The Republican Party has a serious problem on its hands. Reince Priebus would very much like to be the chair of the Republican Party on the watch that dethrones President Barack Obama. That seems unlikely with a candidate like Romney who, much like the chair himself, is insipid and tame, with an untrustworthy record in the eyes of a party base Republicans desperately need to energize. As a rule of thumb, voters don’t respond to well to choosing a chief executive candidate that is vastly overshadowed by his #2– a look at Sarah Palin versus Dan Quayle (or, conversely, Al Gore versus pre-scandal young upstart senator John Edwards), proves that. If the presidential candidate can’t even fully represent the ethos of his party in a commanding way, how can he be expected to control the party?
Mitt Romney already has that problem, without having chosen anyone to run alongside him. He very clearly does not have command of the ethos of his party. Sen. Marco Rubio does– looking at how often he is mentioned in the media and his favorability among party members, it is hard to see anyone else as the leader on the Republican side. And he doesn’t like jobs where he isn’t allowed to do anything, as he told Stewart persistently for more than half an hour.
The subtext is clear in this interview– Sen. Rubio wants a job where he can get things done, the sooner the better. Vice President is not that sort of job, so his rebuke of Congress for being inefficient and useless can easily be interpreted as a sign that he wants nothing to do with this 2012 ticket. Which leaves a fairly open question as to what he does want, as clearly the Senate isn’t cutting it for him. And the answer could lie with a look back at former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.
Before Corzine exposed himself as an incompetent and likely criminal political entity, he too was a young senator with higher executive aspirations, and he too was frustrated with the legislative process. So he ran for governor and won, which is as much a statement on the people of New Jersey as it is on their Republican Party. With executive experience, a governor who used to be a senator could be an unstoppable force on the national stage, arguing with the experience of two branches of government. Sen. Rubio, whose main weakness as a national-level player now is his lack of experience, must be aware of this. He must also be aware of the fact that there is a gubernatorial election in Florida in 2014, and while Rick Scott is a decent enough governor, he wouldn’t be first Florida governor whose political career was cut short by a Rubio run.
Granted, this is all speculation, but Sen. Rubio’s increasingly vocal discomfort with his job– a job that is a liability of President Obama’s resume today– is worth noting two years ahead of a job opening that could give him executive experience and potentially make him President.
The segment via Comedy Central below:
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