MIAMI, March 15, 2016 — The Ides of March continues to be a cruel date in history. The original March 15 victim was Emperor Julius Caesar, who, of course, was assassinated on that date. Five years ago and closer to our own time, the Ides of March claimed the life of rapper Nate Dogg. This March 15 saw Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s once-promising campaign for the White House come up short for the final time.
Despite fighting to the bitter end, Rubio badly lost his home state of Florida to businessman Donald Trump. There will be plenty of time for finger-pointing, but one of the two events that did Rubio in happened before he ever announced his presidential run.
Rubio made the politically fatal mistake of trying to fashion an immigration compromise in a year of anti-immigration hostility. In a good economy, illegal immigration is frequently ignored. In a bad economy, illegal immigrants get blamed for almost all societal woes.
Once Rubio joined the Gang of 8 in their predictably failed attempt to put together another flavor of “comprehensive immigration reform,” he had officially chosen sides in the explosive immigration debate. In 2016, he ended up on the losing side. Lifelong conservatives such as House Speaker Paul Ryan were attacked as establishment apostates over the illegal immigration issue. Rubio, too, as a result of his own efforts at compromise, was accused of supporting amnesty, a false charge he never successfully rebutted.
In a normal political season, illegal immigration would take a back seat to radical Islamic terrorism and economic concerns as a major campaign issue. But in 2016, the Republican Party has seen its primaries and caucuses dominated by enraged voters obsessed with illegal immigration. Apparently, the party establishment didn’t see this coming.
Despite the immigration chink in his armor, Rubio was still well on his way to consolidating the establishment vote early in the primary season. He then experienced his one disastrous debate moment where New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tore him apart. The attacks were so brutal that Christie ended up knocking himself out of the race.
Yet this debate, which occurred just three days before the New Hampshire primary, damaged Rubio as well. It also allowed Ohio Gov. John Kasich to come out of nowhere and finish in second place in New Hampshire, garnering only 16 percent of the vote, 20 percentage points behind winner Donald Trump.
Within days, Rubio would rebound and Kasich would return to being a non-factor. But because Kasich was at the bottom of the heap, he managed to avoid being attacked by the front runners and continued to slide by as other candidates ahead of him in the polls dropped out. Rubio, on the other hand, was always in the spotlight, and withering attacks from Trump on the immigration issue finally did Rubio in. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also took votes from Rubio on the same immigration issue.
While Rubio is not about to win the White House, the stark difference between his supporters and Trump supporters was evident Tuesday evening as he conceded the Florida primary to Trump.
Rubio graciously congratulated Trump. Yet at the same time during Rubio‘s rally, a Trump supporter interrupted Rubio’s speech, threw Trump hats at Rubio supporters, and yelled that “little Marco” and his supporters are losers.
This was kicking dirt on a grave. Many Republicans defended Trump when leftists did this to him at his rallies. His supporters on this night showed they sometimes act no better. Trump supporters will say it is unfair to blame them all.
Rubio did nothing to deserve his goodbye speech’s being ruined. Many of his supporters eagerly looked forward to payback. While Cruz supporters were burning up the telephones asking Rubio supporters to join them, Trump supporters took to social media to gleefully spike the football in little Marco’s face.
Rubio rose above it all, reminding Americans what they liked about him. He spoke about his love for America, and how his grandparents went hungry at night so his parents could eat. He reminded us that only in America could Cuban immigrants, one a bartender and the other a maid, earn enough money to buy a house. Only in the United States could their son become a top-tier contender for the highest office in the land.
Rubio is a pro-gun, anti-tax, pro-Israel mainstream Republican candidate running in a year where the establishment is reviled. Voters are not interested in fixing their political houses. They want to burn them to the ground.
What Rubio is counting on going forward is that people will ultimately remember how he exited the race. Critics will note he lost his home state. Supporters will remember the optimism that shone through as he addressed the crowd on his toughest political night. He handled his defeat with the class, grace and dignity of a president. For the good of the nation, those Republican contenders still standing had best follow his example.