For now, his career is over. In the US election campaign, Marco Rubio sank to the level of his Republican rival Donald Trump. A big mistake, says DW's Miodrag Soric.
His voice is husky, deep, raw. He is pale. When the spotlight falls on him in an unflattering manner, the bags under his eyes are visible. The forced smile does little to hide his sadness. Marco Rubio gave his all, but this was not enough. The young senator lost the primary in his home state of Florida. Once again, the billionaire Donald Trump triumphed. A tragic failure for Rubio. Not only does he have to bury his presidential ambitions, this debacle will probably spell an end to his political career, at least for the next two or three years.
Why did he fail?
To begin with, he has himself to blame. Rubio saw that Trump was dominating the news agenda by insulting his political rivals. The 44-year-old senator must have thought to himself: "I can do that too". He also started aiming below the belt. Rubio mutated into an "anti-Trump" and this could only fail. For the electorate, the original Trump was preferable to Rubio's poor imitation.
It was a mistake to sink to Trump's level. Rubio wasted time arguing about the size of Trump's hands instead of concentrating on his own strengths, such as experience in foreign affairs and defense policy or ideas on how immigration policy could actually work. Rubio's attacks on Trump seemed an act of desperation. "That's not what a future president looks like," is what many voters must have thought. They stopped supporting him.
Rubio did not have an eye-catching message that resonated with the Americans. In his speeches he spoke of his vision of the 21st-century economy. But many will have wondered what this meant. By comparison, Trump's promises to build a wall to stop illegal immigrants entering the US, to set up customs barriers to protect the US market, are clear and understandable. The fact that they are not necessarily viable solutions is beside the point.
Rubio also failed because of money. Republican Party financiers were too late in supporting his campaign. The establishment only turned to him after Jeb Bush, who had a well-filled war chest but always gave the impression he was apologizing to the voters for running with his sour look, dropped out of the race.
Bush never forgave Rubio for competing with him for the same voters, for also wanting to get into the White House. Despite repeated requests, the Bush clan, which wields considerable influence in Florida, refused to support him in the past few days. The political world can be ruthless, especially in the US.
Rubio's failure will have consequences. Trump is one important step closer to clinching the Republican nomination. The party establishment is at a loss, desperate. Moderate Republicans are now placing their hopes on Ohio governor John Kasich but Trump is already on the attack.
In the Democratic camp, the race is less exciting. Clinton remains the favorite, but Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is not likely to give up so fast. His goal is no longer to become president. He wants to force his rival to embrace issues that are close to his heart: He wants stricter regulation of Wall Street and more money for education and infrastructure, he wants an end to the free trade agreements TTP and TTIP. Clinton will have to accept some of these goals. If not, Sanders and his supporters could refuse to stand by her and Trump could become president. God forbid.
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