Out with the old.....and out with the new
The first hint that Rubio might not be quite ready for the big leagues was, of course, the infamous water-bottle lunge during his 2013 SOTU response. It was a minor thing, but it stuck in the memory as a misstep that a more skilled performer would have avoided.
His next and most fatal error -- though almost no one saw it as such at the time -- came soon after, with his involvement in the Senate "Gang of Eight" illegal-alien amnesty bill. Perhaps he didn't realize how angry a large chunk of the Republican base is about illegal immigration -- but he should have. His involvement dogged him through the primary campaign, and was by far the most often-cited issue among Republicans who opposed him, based on what I saw in discussions on their sites.
The real end, though, came at the hands of Chris Christie during the debate in early February, where he got Rubio rattled enough to fall back on reciting the same memorized talking point four times:
From this kind of gaffe, there's no recovery. "Rubot" memes proliferated, the jokes wrote themselves, and primary voters started thinking about what such a stilted performance implied about how future debates with Hillary would go. From that point on, Rubio's campaign was a dead campaign walking. All Trump did yesterday was to put down the zombie.
If Rubio had waited -- perhaps run for Governor of Florida for some executive experience, and tried for President later when he was more prepared for the intense stress and scrutiny -- he might have done better. As it is, I suspect his political career is over. This spectacular crash-and-burn, capped with a 19-point loss in his home state, will define him.
At that, we should be relieved. Rubio is no reformist. He would just have put a younger, less lily-white, and more attractive face on the same old garbage. He rejects global warming, his opposition to abortion is extreme even by Republican standards, and he injects religion into political talk to an alarming degree. He represented a danger, but not an opportunity.
The Republicans have opted for a very different savior. After yesterday, it's hard to see how anyone but Trump has any credible path to the nomination, unless the leadership pulls some Byzantine maneuver at the convention, which would enrage the Trumpolines into all-out revolt. Be thankful that our opponents have, at least, chosen a messenger as repugnant as their message.