Tonight’s the night. The night that could decide the fate of Donald Trump’s bizarre candidacy… that could send Jeb! back to his Miami mansion. .. that could signal the emergence of a new Republican star…
No, not Ben Carson. Gentle Ben has all the voters he is ever going to get – the Bible thumpers, the home schoolers, the persistent prophets of the Apocalypse.
Fortunately, the religious right, while disturbingly numerous, is not the majority in America. Or even in the Republican base. Yes, there are a lot of single-issue anti-abortion voters. But I don’t see many Southern “conservatives” casting their ballots for Ben (for reasons too obvious to mention). They would be conflicted at best.
Trump’s days are numbered. And Jeb! says he doesn’t want to keep running for President if it means being demonized and having to demonize others, which I interpret as not in today’s political environment. And he rejects the idea of being President if it means presiding over gridlock. Sorry Jeb!, you are not Paul Ryan. You don’t get to take the job on your own terms.
So who will be the rising star to emerge from tonight’s Republican presidential debate?
Not Carly. She is too much of a … witch. And even at Halloween, a lot of voters will cringe when she bares her rhetorical fangs.
Not Ted. He is nasty enough to appeal to Trump’s left-over mad-hatter crowd. But he is just too unlovable to attract a broader following. With Ben sewing up the evangelical vote, Ted will be left to sweep up the crumbs.
Not John Kasich. He is to Republicans what Jim Webb was to Democrats – out of step with their current dogma.
Not Mike Huckabee, not Rand Paul, not Chris Christie, not Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal or George Pataki (who?). They’re yesterday’s news.
So that leaves… You guessed it! Marco Rubio.
Not only could Rubio be the Next Big Thing, he could be the next President.
I know. He is an empty suit. A lazy know-nothing who was conspicuous by his absence during his job as a US senator. A spendthrift who bought a luxury yacht instead of paying his mortgage and his debts.
But he is young and looks younger. He shaves and he has a nice haircut. And a nice smile. Some people (not me!) might even call him handsome. And as Joe Biden famously said of an earlier political star, he is clean and articulate.
Furthermore, he has a Hispanic name and the Republicans need the Hispanic vote. And he has apparently outgrown the adolescent awkwardness of the water-glass episode (remember?).
Also very important, he has managed to learn the right-wing creed by heart. Republicans can count on him to quote from the Bible and defend the fetus the flag and the financial elite on cue. He has even abandoned his support for immigration reform and adopted the party’s zero-tolerance position.
Scarily, that might be what a majority of America’s voters are looking for.
(Top photo: Trump and Carson. Lower photo: Time Magazine cover featuring Rubio.)