I have long said I thought Marco Rubio was the most electable candidate in the general election. Many evangelical friends taking issue with my earlier piece today are pointing to that.
There is a reason most of my fire breathing conservative family supports Marco Rubio. They like him. They like his demeanor. They like his optimism. They adore his wife. They see him as a compelling contrast against Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders.
There is a reason Democrats really fear Marco Rubio. They think he is the most youthful, hopeful candidate who can expand the Republican coalition to get Democratic votes.
All of this is true, but there are other things that are true too.
First, in 2008 and 2012, the men the party leaders said were the most electable candidates got the party’s nomination and they both lost. Some would interpret that to mean that no one could have won. I disagree. I think rather the party and those who support the leadership of the party are very out of tune with the American public and the man they see as most electable often times is not.
Second, unlike in 2008 or 2012, I actually share the belief that Marco Rubio would have an easier general election than many of the other candidates, including Ted Cruz. Do not read that as binary. That does not mean I think Ted Cruz cannot win. I absolutely believe Ted Cruz can win. But I think Rubio has a bit of an easier time.
But, and this is the key but, Marco Rubio is not the most electable candidate if he cannot get elected.
Whether the party leaders like it or not, Marco Rubio has to win primaries. Losing by less is not a path to victory. He actually has to win primaries. If he cannot win primaries, he is not the most electable Republican because he cannot even get the Republicans to give him the nomination.
More so, if Marco Rubio cannot rebound in South Carolina, he has a rapidly diminishing chance of winning anything. It is no good to head from South Carolina to Nevada, supposedly friendly territory, with a strong Ted Cruz ground game and a terrible showing. Doing so makes Trump more likely.
Lastly, the Rubio campaign team is today floating the idea that Marco Rubio may require a brokered convention to get the nomination. If that is the case, Rubio needs to withdraw from the race now.
A brokered convention will be far more divisive that bitter primaries and cause lingering bad blood. If Rubio cannot win primaries, he should think Karl Rove, the Republican Establishment, or any other boogeyman of the right giving him the nomination by default at a brokered convention is a viable path forward.
That would actually make Rubio the least electable Republican in a long time.
Either Rubio can rebound in South Carolina or he cannot. We will have a sense of that Saturday night in the debate. If he flubs that, evangelicals need to have a come to Jesus meeting on whether to keep standing behind Rubio or realize they may have to cast their lots with another pro-life Christian, just one who makes them feel less snow white.