May 22, 2009


An Idea in Every Pot: Can Marco Rubio's ideas—he has 100 of them!—help revive the Republican Party? (Christopher Beam, May 22, 2009, Slate)

In 2006, Rubio wrote and published a book called 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future. It was the product of a yearlong campaign to get Floridians to submit their own ideas for government (and, of course, to elect Rubio). There were three criteria: The ideas had to be relevant to daily life, they had to focus on the future, and they could not "unnecessarily expand government." The 1,500 submissions were whittled down to 100 concrete proposals, and the book became a template for his two-year tenure as speaker. [...]

Some ideas do stand out as novel. Rubio proposes free parking or reduced tolls for hybrid cars (No. 76). He wants to the state government to have a highly fuel-efficient fleet of cars (No. 77). He proposes cutting tuition for students who pursue careers that are experiencing shortages, like math, science, nursing, engineering, and teaching (No. 26). (Jeb Bush tossed out this idea at the first meeting of Cantor's National Council for a New America in Arlington, Va., earlier this month. Bush also blurbed Rubio's book.)

In the book, Rubio shies away from social issues. There's an emphasis on family—parental notification for social networking sites (No. 66), building "Children's Zones" for at-risk kids (No. 69), creating a "family-friendly Hollywood" in Florida (No. 90)—but he doesn't touch gay marriage or abortion. "The reason it's not in the book is we didn't hear a lot about it at that moment," Rubio says. But, he tells me, he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. As for the federal marriage amendment, "I have mixed feelings about that."

Rubio shares many goals of many liberals and moderates—better schools, safer streets, healthier children—but insists on market-based incentives to get there. Some of his proposals could even be part of an Obama platform, until you see the "how." Other goals are classic supply-side economics, like his doomed quest against the property tax (No. 96). [...]

The analytical frame of the moment describes a split between big-tent Republicans who would compromise and reach out to independents—particularly on social issues—and GOPers who would double down on conservative fundamentals. Rubio rejects that dichotomy. "I don't think that's how the debate is shaping up," he says. "I think it's between leadership and popularity. Between people who want principles, and people who think we should have focus groups and polls and make our policy based on that."

It makes sense that Rubio would reject the big tent/small tent split, since it's not clear which side he'd fall on. Yes, he's more conservative than Charlie Crist. He's pro-life, anti-stimulus, and anti-gay marriage. But he favors reaching out to independents as much as anyone. And as a Hispanic, he represents the GOP's best hope to avoid losing an entire demographic the way it lost African-Americans.

The Right hates Martinez and Crist because they know them. They like Rubio because they don't know him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 22, 2009 2:40 PM
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