Can Rubio Beat His Mentor Bush?

Former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are still good friends but one has to wonder how long that will last? Rubio announced his quest for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination and he was clear that he was not going to wait “his turn,” it was time for new idea’s, no more looking back, time to move forward with the junior senator leading the charge.

The main theme throughout Rubio’s presidential announcement speech Monday focused on a new generation, an apparent knock on older challengers who have close ties to the presidency, including Bush, who is a generation older than Rubio and whose brother and father were president.

Yesterday, Bush said “a lot of great people are running” and added that “tearing down other people won’t help at all,” Bush told the audience at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in Columbus.

During his remarks Bush also declined to say much about potential Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who made her first campaign stop in Iowa hours before he spoke.

“All the other candidates and all the process, I’m really not the right person to talk to about that. I don’t follow it, to be honest with you,” he said.

Politics is a blood sport and once the debate season gets here it will become far more difficult for the two good friends to not have to take the gloves off and take some shots at each other.

There is no question that Rubio’s most important problem is that “his mentor,” Jeb Bush has found considerable support from the party’s mainstream conservative and moderate donors in the so-called invisible primary — the behind-the-scenes competition for elite support that often decides the nomination.

Bush’s ability to raise big money from deep pocket donor’s from all over the country has denied Sen. Rubio the opportunity to consolidate the center-right wing of the party. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a big problem if Mr. Rubio were a favorite of the conservatives skeptical of Mr. Bush’s candidacy, but for now at least the former Florida governor continues to hold the early lead for the GOP nominations in most all of the key political polls.

The good and bad news for Rubio is that one of his rivals, Bush, has similar views on immigration. Bush seems to have inflamed the right even more perhaps because his description of illegal immigration as an act of “love.” So far, the former Florida governor is dominating the more establishment wing of the party, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul are devouring the party’s right. As The New York Times’s Nate Cohn, put it, Rubio has been boxed out like a basketball player.

But he still has breakout potential. He’s a good campaigner. He could be the compromise candidate for all wings of the GOP. And while Rubio, a Cuban-American, isn’t likely to convince most Latinos to switch parties, he could siphon off enough votes to help Republicans win in 2016. If Bush fades, Rubio could suddenly grab a bigger share of campaign contributions from Florida and help him snag votes from the rest of the country.

His secret weapon may wind up being his tax proposals. So far the Republican contest has been primarily defined by contempt for President Obama and well-worn calls for tax cuts and deregulation. By forming a more populist note on tax cuts, Rubio can distinguish himself from a crowded and competitive field. What the senator has in mind will almost certainly be a deficit expander, but it will at least have a middle and lower class tilt. He’s likely to push big expansions of the Earned Income Tax Cut for lower income workers and dependents. It’s a different approach than just chopping rates across the board. And it’s not an entirely new idea. But it’s new-ish. And that helps any new generation candidate.

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.