We can now safely close the voting for Quintessential Headline of the 2016 Election with Slate’s entry, Pundits Have Long Been Saying Rubio Is on the Rise. Now There’s Finally Some Evidence to Back That Up. Both political betting markets and pundits seem to consider Rubio the favorite to win the Republican nomination, which is strange, since he hasn’t polled above 11% since Donald Trump entered the race. But now Rubio has been endorsed by Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado and Senator Steve Daines of Nilbog. He’s also been backed by billionaire Paul Singer, although Singer has not technically given him a bunch of money yet. And it turns out the Gardner/Daines endorsements move Rubio up to fourth place on Five Thirty-Eight’s endorsement tracker, which seems like less than the favorite position. But the Republican phenom for which there was no evidence now enjoys scant evidence. Pundits rejoice! Further deflation after the jump.
Here’s Slate senior writer and probable Hawkeye Josh Voorhees:
Rubio, though, will have to wait a little longer to see if GOP primary voters follow the lead of Republican politicos, establishment-minded powerbrokers, and Washington pundits…In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll (conducted Oct. 25–29), the Florida Republican was at 11 percent, down two points from where he was two weeks earlier, the previous time those pollsters asked the question. In the latest Investor’s Business Daily/TPP survey (Oct. 24–29), he was at 11 percent, unchanged from the same poll taken at the end of September. And the latest Ipsos/Reuters poll (Oct. 24–28) had him at 6 percent, unchanged from the previous week.
That’s a funny kind of momentum, poised as it is between unchanged and backsliding. But the endorsements! Sorry—I accidentally hit the exclamation point key instead of continuing: But the endorsements come from two senate freshmen. And although the support of a billionaire is promising, Rubio’s third-quarter fundraising was weak compared to that of his rivals.
So we’re finally seeing evidence that Rubio is the favorite, in the form of ameliorations to the overwhelming evidence he is not. It seems that the senator from Florida is the favorite not in the sense that he is most likely to win, but simply that he is most liked.
There’s an obvious reason for that: no one wants to see Trump or Ben Carson win the Republican nomination. By “no one,” I mean no one of sense. Based on current poll numbers, damn near 50% of Republican voters want to see one of those two men in the general. If you’re a professional Republican—a pundit, a strategist, a big donor—that idea is utterly unacceptable.
It doesn’t just mean that the party you love is going to self-immolate next November. It also means you’re not succeeding at your job. The role of conservative pundits is to both predict and influence the future of their party. Sure, they’re supposed to guess who’s going to win the nomination. But they’re also supposed to guide the party’s base toward good candidates, good strategies, good ideas.
The present dominance of Trump and Carson, with their mathematically unworkable flat taxes and xenophobic rhetoric, combines bad candidates with dumb ideas in what promises to be a disastrous strategy. Every poll that puts those
stooges Washington outsiders ahead of Rubio by double digits is a referendum on the relevance of the pundit class. And the pundit class keeps failing.
The GOP establishment has called Rubio the favorite since Bush fell out of favor in July. The stubborn refusal of voters to actually favor him looks more like a rejection of the pundit class every week. That’s terrifying, because for the last eight years, the Republican Party has been more effective as a news and entertainment marketing scheme than as a political party.
If the GOP cannot produce strong pundits, what is it good for? It’s spent several election cycles paring its audience and deepening their loyalty. The broad trend of conservatism since George W. Bush suggests that it would settle for having the most-watched cable news network instead of the most-voted-for politicians. If the talking heads lose control of their viewers, what do they have left?