Carly Fiorina emerged from CNN’s Republican debate on Tuesday looking like a superstar. She spoke passionately and intelligently about issues ranging from foreign policy to Planned Parenthood. She stopped Donald Trump in his tracks and came out clean on the other side. Despite her obvious lack of political acumen, Fiorina won the debate, almost by a landslide. However, she was not the best candidate on that stage. Nor was Trump, nor Jeb Bush. The GOP’s best candidate award belongs to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
The Florida Senator didn’t square off with Donald Trump and he didn’t have any truly memorable quotes, but he spoke articulately about a wide range of issues, especially about foreign policy, and each statement he delivered built on the last. He’s clearly forming a platform centered on hope and change, focusing on foreign policy and immigration.
Rubio offers the Republican Party its best chance at winning back the White House. He hails from Florida, an important swing state. His parents emigrated from Cuba and he possesses some real knowledge on immigration reform (Gang of Eight). He isn’t concerned with building a wall on the Mexican border. The Senator spoke concisely about his opinions regarding America and its presence in the Middle East. Rubio also offered an excellent answer as to why he voted against President Obama’s war resolution in Syria: “He said the attack that he was going to conduct was going to be a pinprick. Well, the United States military was not built to conduct pinprick attacks.”
Rubio often shies away from comparisons to Barack Obama, but the similarities between Obama’s ’08 rise and Rubio’s ’16 candidacy are striking. Both are minority Senators with impressive oratory skills that can dazzle and inspire audiences and, more importantly, voters. Rubio’s youth also places him in close company with ’08 Obama. Rubio is 42 years old. At this time during Obama’s first campaign, he was 47. Obama’s youth and emphasis on hope were huge keys to his victory, as he mobilized young voters across the country. Rubio won’t be captivating young voters in the same way Obama did, but the Senator’s youth should help him secure some votes.
Perhaps the most important factor in Rubio’s candidacy is his home state. Florida is the largest swing state in the country with 27 electoral votes. Obama’s victories in ’08 and ’12 were easily won because he took Florida. If the Republicans wish to win, they need to win Florida, and Rubio gives them the best shot at winning this state as well as moderate voters (sorry Jeb). According to a poll taken by Real Clear Politics between August 11 and September 9, Rubio holds 44 percent of the vote, while Clinton holds 46.4. Rubio’s numbers should increase if Clinton were to lose the nomination to Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Currently, Rubio is still struggling in the national polls at 11 percent, compared to the likes of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson who hold 24, 15 and 14 percent, respectively, according to a poll taken by CNN after the debate. However, in a poll conducted by Gravis Marketing after Wednesday’s debate, 16 percent of registered Republican voters believe Rubio won (Fiorina held 33 percent, Trump 21 percent). When asked the question, “Do you have a more or less favorable opinion of Marco Rubio?” 71 percent had a favorable opinion of Rubio. That’s only seven points behind Fiorina.
If Rubio continues to gain momentum in the coming months before Iowa, he will almost certainly be the best and most dangerous of the GOP’s 2016 presidential candidates.