Sen. Marco Rubio will announce his presidential bid Monday before a crowd of supporters at Miami’s Freedom Tower. Once seen as the “Republican Savior,” Rubio has tried to pitch himself as a moderate candidate, able to draw in new voters with a fresh vision of the Republican Party.
But the senator’s attempts to win over both the conservative base and more left-leaning minorities have mainly served to alienate, one by one, the very groups he would need to win the presidency.
The Tea Party
Once a Tea Party darling, Rubio’s push for comprehensive immigration reform has lost him support in that camp. Tea Party activists even staged a rally attacking Rubio and the Senate’s immigration bill as Rubio’s “amnesty” plan. The Floridians who supported his original bid for Senate have been publicly hounding him, funding billboards in Jacksonville that read: “The Rubio-Obama Immigration Plan. Amnesty: “Right Away,” Border Control: “Someday.” Nor were activists convinced when Rubio abandoned comprehensive immigration reform a few months after pushing for it.
After championing immigration reform in the Senate, Rubio ran away from his own bill. He later publicly berated undocumented activists who protested this about-face, angering the very Latino voters the Republican party has admitted it desperately needs. According to Rubio’s own campaign staff, a Republican candidate will need to win more than 40 percent of the Latino vote.
Once his party’s great hope to win the votes of young people and Latinos — being young and Latino himself — he now trails Hillary Clinton in polls of Latino voters, who are nearly evenly split between a favorable and unfavorable impression of him.
Over the months leading up to his announcement, Rubio has repeatedly touted his foreign policy credentials as an element that sets him apart from other Republican candidates. But as the US business community practically salivates at the prospect of stepped up trade with Cuba, Rubio vowed to block the normalization of relations, calling the President’s plan changes a “victory for oppression.”
Though Rubio nabbed an exclusive invitation to the Koch Brothers’ recent soiree of CEOS, moguls and megadonors, some attendees noted that his aggressive foreign policy views are “out of step with the more noninterventionist” beliefs amongst Koch network donors.
The Religious Right
Rubio revealed in his memoir that over his life he has gone back and forth between the Mormon, Catholic and Baptist churches, prompting right-wing outlets like Newsmax to remark, “Many Americans might question how someone could attend both churches and fully share in both denominations.”
Rubio’s attempts in recent years to actively court religious voters have often missed the mark, such as a speech at DC’s Catholic University last year in which he both condemned discrimination against gays and lesbians and argued they should be denied equal legal rights.
The Senator did not help the situation when he harshly criticized the Pope for helping arrange talks between the US and Cuba, implying that he didn’t prioritize “the cause of freedom and democracy.”
Pope Francis has a overwhelmingly high approval rating among Latinos, making Rubio’s decision to go after his reputation doubly unwise.