Writing for the New York Times, Ross Douthat examines why Marco Rubio — likable among Republicans and polling very well against Hillary Clinton — isn’t winning the GOP primary. Among the reasons, according to Douthat? Rubio is too conservative:
Both the Republican donor class and the New Hampshire electorate, in slightly different ways, are more moderate or even liberal than the wider Republican electorate. Meanwhile, as Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight points out, Rubio is a lot more conservative than his “great establishment hope” image currently suggests.
Moreover, his conservatism is most pronounced on social issues, which makes him culturally alien to both the libertarian and Yankee moderates of New Hampshire and the secular and socially liberal segment of the party’s donor base.
Which is why it isn’t necessarily surprising that Rubio is polling slightly better in evangelical-heavy Iowa than in New Hampshire, or that he’s having trouble putting away more moderate figures like Christie and Kasich in the latter state. It may well be, as Enten suggests, that a lot of Republican bigwigs are just much more politically and culturally comfortable with the other candidates in the establishment “lane,” and so they aren’t ready to throw in with Rubio’s piety and Tea Party-ish voting record until they have no other choice.
Isn’t that the ultimate irony? The ultra-right-wing segment of the GOP is driving Donald Trump — who doesn’t have a conservative bone in his body and cannot beat Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup — while Rubio spins his wheels . . . because he’s too conservative. Ya gotta love politics.