Lessons for 2020: What went especially wrong in a year in which nothing went right for Marco Rubio

I had time on my hands this year and was prepared to work full time here in Iowa for a presidential candidate.

My first choice was Jeb Bush. But Jeb was invisible. When I emailed his campaign and volunteered my services, I was referred to his website. There I found an opportunity to make phone calls for Jeb from home on the landline I didn't have.

When I decided that Jeb wasn't viable (or maybe existent) and switched to Marco Rubio, I found myself in touch with a campaign that seemed from my perspective to have its act together. But its campaign headquarters was not in Des Moines- Iowa's capital and largest city- but in Ankeny, a large suburb with what might charitably be called indifferent public transportation connections (I don't have a car). I heard reports that Rubio's operation in Iowa wasn't considered to be very elaborate, which worried me. As it happened, we carried my precinct caucus quite handsomely; the results out in the rural part of the state weren't quite so good, but Rubio nearly beat Donald Trump for second place in Iowa.

It was downhill from there. Here's a link to what purports to be the inside story of the failure of a campaign that should have been solid gold.

It rings true. I was as frustrated as anybody by a year in which people were willing to ignore the most formidable array of Republican presidential candidates in a generation in order to throw a temper tantrum by voting for an ignorant, bombastic clown- and this in perhaps the most critical year for the Republicans to win in my lifetime. I watched Marco Rubio win debate after debate by any rational standard- only to have the polls show Bozo to be the perceived winner. And then, when he had one bad debate- a bad five minutes, really- everything came crashing down on his head.

Conservatives in the Republican party are angry because John McCain and Mitt Romney lost two elections the Republicans were supposed to lose. Rarely does any party win three straight presidential elections (though thanks to the fecklessness of the GOP rank-and-file, the Democrats almost certainly will this year- and with a disaster of a candidate, at that). Nor, as a general rule, are incumbent presidents defeated for re-election even if they've done bad to mediocre jobs. It takes an unusual set of circumstances (like Ross Perot's campaign in 1992 or the bizarre economic circumstances of the Carter years) for a president to go down. Yet somehow McCain and Romney are blamed for having run bad campaigns.

The Republicans probably haven't been as aggressive as they might have been in pushing their legislative agenda given their control of both houses of Congress. But instead of insisting that the congressional leadership either become better at the game of give-and-take by which our system, functions, the rank-and-file have decided that Ted Cruz- like rigidity and stubbornness were what the doctor ordered. If Crus is the nominee, they will see in November what the electorate as a whole thinks of shutting the government down to make an ideological point. Instead of turning Ted Cruz- surely the unlikeliest of presidential contenders- into one of the two finalists for this year's nomination, they should have run him out of town.

No, I'm not sure what you can do against widespread irrationality. I'm not sure Marco Rubio could have won this year no matter what he and his campaign did or didn't do. But four years from now- after Hillary has appointed four Supreme Court justices and probably put the Court out of the reach of those who actually believe in the Constitution for a generation- the Republicans will be in an even stronger position than they should have been this year. And maybe Marco Rubio- a talented and intelligent man who learns from his mistakes- will learn from the ones he made this year, and lead a more rational and victory-oriented Republican party to the Promised Land after all.

Photo by Donkeyhotey

ADDENDUM: Here's another post-mortem on the Rubio campaign by Ben Domenech of The Federalist.

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