The top three finishers in the Iowa Republican Caucuses told us a lot about themselves in the speeches they gave after the results came in.
Donald Trump’s words following his defeat, while uncharacteristically gracious, were remarkable for their brevity. As much as Trump proclaimed that he loved the people of the Hawkeye state so much that he wanted to buy a farm there, he looked like he couldn’t wait to get the hell out as fast as he could and never set foot in Iowa ever again.
By contrast, Ted Cruz didn’t want the night to end. And who could blame him? But 32 minutes into his victory sermon even Fox News decided it had enough and mercifully cut away to Bernie Sanders’ remarks. While Sanders might stand in solidarity with the Cuban government, it is Cruz that shares more in common with Fidel Castro when it comes to lengthy speeches.
While Marco Rubio did have a plane a catch to New Hampshire, he didn’t talk to Iowans like he was double parked. And although his remarks had a tone of triumph (finishing only 2,000 votes or so behind the second place Trump) he didn’t feel the need to turn the gathering into a revival meeting. Rubio might have left Iowa with a bronze, but his speech was pure gold.
Having listened to those speeches from the three of them last night and having listened to them for many months now I have concluded that Marco Rubio is the only Republican that has a chance of winning the White House in November.
Not much has gone Jeb Bush’s way, but he is right to say that Donald Trump cannot insult his way to the presidency. Given Trump’s contemptuous remarks about women and Hispanics, what on earth makes anyone think he would fare better than Mitt Romney did with these constituencies of critical mass?
With this in mind, it would be equally right to say that Ted Cruz cannot preach his way to the presidency. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t question Cruz’s faith in the Creator, the Constitution, or in conservatism. His willingness to speak of the evils of radical Islam and the dangers of the Iran nuclear deal make him infinitely preferable to either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders who dare not speak the I word much less speak ill of the Iranian regime. Yet I doubt Cruz would fare well against either Hillary despite her scandal or Bernie despite his socialism. The hellfire and brimstone routine might do wonders with Evangelical voters in Iowa. But it turns off people who, for lack of a better term, have New York values. Subscribers of New York values need not subscribe to the values of Bill de Blasio. But conservatives who see fit to deride New York values is a sure way to tell a large mass of people, “I don’t need your vote and I’m better than you are anyway.” There are many voters who loathe sanctimony more than they loathe scandal or socialism.
Ted Cruz is an intelligent man, but he isn’t very smart — street smart, that is. Cruz is a fountain of knowledge without a drop of wisdom.
The problem here is that Cruz talks at people instead of talking to people. Marco Rubio excels at talking to people. A case in point would be on the subject of Christianity. Both Cruz and Rubio are men of faith. But while Cruz began his victory speech by shouting, “To God be the glory,” Rubio speaks of his faith so we can understand why he has chosen it. This was illustrated in response to a question posed to him by an atheist who feared Rubio would be “a pastor in chief” rather than “a commander in chief” during a town hall meeting two weeks before the Iowa caucuses:
You shouldn’t be worried about my faith influencing me. In fact, I think you should hope my faith influences me. Here’s why. You know what my faith teaches me?
My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to the less fortunate.
My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to love my neighbor.
My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to those that are hungry to feed them, those who are naked to help clothe them.
My faith teaches me that I need to minister to those in prison.
My faith teaches me that if I want to serve Jesus that I have to serve each other.
And I think you should hope that influences me. I know it’s made it a greater country.
I harbor no illusions that Rubio’s explanation of his faith had the effect of converting that atheist. In fact, I’m sure this response only deepened his conviction that there is no God. But to most people who were in the audience and watched the video online here we have a man who is passionate about his faith and yet is respectful of those who do not share it. In short, Marco Rubio comes across as a reasonable person whose word deserves our consideration. The video went viral and a case can be made that it might have been very well responsible for Rubio’s surge in the polls in the fortnight leading up to the caucus vote. Rubio might have come in third on Monday night, but his reservoir of reason has only begun to flow.
Like it or not, in order for the GOP to win the White House that Republican has to convince people who voted for Barack Obama twice to come over to our side. I’m not talking about the true believers, but rather the people whose identities are not defined by politics. These people are more likely to respond to reason than to rancor. Donald Trump has so poisoned the well with his demagoguery that there is simply no chance he will be considered by a majority of women and Hispanics, not to mention Muslim voters. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has not shown that he can preach beyond the ears of the choir. There is no such impediment where it concerns Marco Rubio. If one were to ask Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or at least the people closest to them who they least wanted to face I dare say that both camps would pick Marco Rubio without a moment’s hesitation.
In the grand scheme of things, when it comes to the ability of the three leading Republican candidates to articulate a conservative point of view to the majority of the voters while demonstrating the temperament necessary to be President of the United States, Marco Rubio wins hands down. Simply put, Marco Rubio is both the right choice for Republicans and the right choice for the country.