The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza watched Rubio’s opening statement in the Senate debate on Monday night in Florida and published a story concluding, correctly, that Rubio would’ve be a better general-election candidate for the GOP. Here are, in Cillizza’s words, “72 seconds that prove why Republicans would have been way better off nominating Marco Rubio”:
Rubio’s personal story speaks to a fundamental belief in the country that you can be anyone you want to be if you work hard enough. Rubio’s is a positive story about what makes America exceptional — as told through the lens of his own personal experience. There is tremendous oratorical power in this line: “I have a debt to this country I will never fully repay.”
But all the qualities Cillizza loves—the uplift of Rubio’s personal story, the soaring rhetoric about America’s greatness—weren’t at all what Republican primary voters wanted this year. They weren’t feeling great about America. They weren’t in the mood for high-minded optimism. They wanted Donald Trump.
Rubio lost the nomination for those reasons and many others, including that he tried to be a little of everything to everyone and diluted the contrast he drew with Trump. Some of his failing was surely circumstantial—Jeb Bush made it impossible for him to be the sole champion of reform conservatism, or even to have one state to himself—but on Monday, Rubio continued to showcase his own shortcomings that hurt him earlier this year. He revived his infamously robotic debate mode, repeatedly saying “God willing” when asked whether he’d serve another full Senate term instead of running for president again. He also, of course, refused to rescind his support for the man who won the Republican primary fair and square.