Marco Rubio's sad quest to become GOP's blandest presidential candidate

By ensuring he has absolutely nothing interesting to say anymore, here's how Rubio boxed himself out of the primary

Published May 12, 2014 4:15PM (EDT)

Marco Rubio                              (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
Marco Rubio (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

So it goes: another weekend, another bold attempt by Sen. Marco Rubio to make himself as completely uninteresting a presidential possibility as imaginable. In said quest to make himself unique and special to approximately zero GOP primary voter segments, Rubio is winning. Winning hard! Indeed, it might be said that Rubio's campaign to not become the eventual GOP presidential nominee is running head-and-shoulders above those of his potential foes.

We've written before about how Rubio's decision effectively to abandon his comprehensive immigration reform plan and embrace every other right-wing hobbyhorse has stripped him of any rationale for a presidential candidacy. The more conservative GOP wing will never forget or forgive him for his role in the immigration debate, while the pro-immigration reform wing (donors, "moderates") now no longer has a reason to support him. Combine that with his otherwise standard Tea Party views on everything else, and he's flattened himself into useless first-term senator of blandness unrivaled.

Now, after yesterday's excursion to ABC's This Week, we can add climate change to the list of plain vanilla and sublimely incoherent right-wing views that Rubio has adopted in an attempt to become a totally uninteresting political figure. Rubio, who has previously mused that he was "not a scientist, man," when asked a question about the earth's age, now appears to be very much in the business of science when it comes to climate change.

"I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate," he said on ABC's "This Week." "Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity, I do not agree with that."

He added that the laws thus far proposed to combat climate change, such as cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, will "do anything about" this man-made problem that, once again, he doubts exist, "except ... destroy our economy." (As Sam Stein notes, it's always interesting to go back to 2008, when Republican presidential candidates like John McCain and Mike Huckabee were arguing the need for a cap-and-trade system on environmental, economic and moral grounds.)

Kudos to Marco Rubio for mastering the standard incoherent GOP talking point on climate change circa 2014: it's not caused by human activity, and besides, eliminating the human activity by which it's caused would just destroy the economy. 

At some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, there's going to come a point when the Sunday news shows realize that Rubio is no longer worth booking because he doesn't have anything interesting to say because he's no longer an interesting political figure. No slot remains for him to occupy in what should be a crowded GOP primary field of 2016. Most other candidates at least have something to hang their hats on in a primary. What the hell, let's just run through the list as generously as we can:

Jeb Bush: big donors, Florida popularity, support from pro-immigration crowd

Rand Paul: libertarian Tea Party types

Scott Walker: actual right-wing union-busting accomplishments as governor of a state, survived a recall to tell of it

Chris Christie: problems, yes, but still, actual right-wing union-busting accomplishments as governor of a state, personality

Paul Ryan: former VP candidate, architect of conservative budget framework

Ted Cruz: most notable anti-Obamacare critic, shut down the government, which plenty of conservatives still think was awesome

Rick Santorum: social conservatives, something approaching a rhetorical connection with blue-collar workers

Mike Huckabee: social conservatives, Iowa, personality

The other obvious person(s) we can't think of right now and are going to kick ourselves over when we remember after this post is published: more stuff than Marco Rubio, probably?

Where does Marco Rubio fit in? Well, he used to have a claim to the Jeb Bush slot. But now "Jeb Bush" has the Jeb Bush slot. Had he managed to push his friends in the House into passing something resembling an immigration reform package, he would've already achieved the basis for a Jeb Bush presidency and been in a commanding position among an sizable wing of the party. Now he is just some dude in the Senate. Oh well! Not everyone gets to be president, sadly.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell