cartoon by Chan Lowe, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Marco, Jeb and the Latino vote (March 30, 2014)

Marco Rubio’s star was once so much on the ascendant that a mere two years ago, he had GOP big shots swooning over him as a possible Latino JFK. Unfortunately, the young and inexperienced senator from Little Havana made several blunders, the most high-profile being one of hubris: Early on, he began listening to seductive whispers that he was truly presidential material.

 

In order to make himself more palatable to potential general election voters (particularly of the Latino variety), he moderated his ultra-conservative views about immigration to embrace a path to citizenship. To his dismay, he discovered that the tea party horse he rode to D.C. had no qualms about bucking him. No amount of Obamacare-bashing appears to have mollified his fickle base.

 


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Marco’s lesser error was that he bought into the notion that his heritage provided him with automatic inroads into the Latino voting community. Unfortunately, he was thinking like an Anglo. An American-born son of wet foot/dry foot Cuban parents (even though he can speak the language of Cervantes with a flawless Cuban accent) has little in common with the aspirations and concerns of southwestern Chicanos regarding immigration, assimilation and attaining the American Dream.

 

Jeb Bush, like Rubio, preaches the establishment GOP gospel of low taxes and minimal regulation for businesses, which is music to entrepreneurial Latin ears. He can also do it fluently in Spanish (although his accent is execrable). But Bush’s chief advantage is that can afford to openly voice his relatively progressive views on immigration — and trumpet melodious lines about immigrants being the backbone of American economic growth— because he isn’t beholden to the xenophobic element to whom Rubio must toady.

 

There’s no question that Jeb’s last name is a millstone. He knows it, his mother knows it, and even W. seems to realize it. Yes, there are the primaries to weather, with their attendant lunatic fringe candidates. But in the end, it’s all about the money. Even GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson admits that his obsessive funding of the Gingrich campaign fatally damaged the Romney candidacy for the general election. He now wants to back a winner, and that can only be good news for Jeb (whose first name is the only one you’re ever likely to see on bumper stickers).

 

Jeb has the formidable ability to speak intelligently, sound reasonable, and articulate his views in two languages. That’s three things his older brother couldn’t do, and he won the presidency twice.