At 43 years old, Marco Rubio is the youngest and, according to the team behind @marcorubio, coolest Republican candidate in the race for the White House in 2016 – a selling point that’s been the subtext of the Florida senator’s social media campaign from the get-go.
Even before Rubio stepped onto the stage in Miami, his team of digital specialists were using social media, primarily Twitter, to post content targeting young adults with messaging that highlighted his connection to youth culture. Last Sunday night, Team Rubio sent a “Game of Thrones”-related tweet shortly before the popular show’s season premiere. On Tuesday, he told msnbc’s Kasie Hunt that he’s a fan of the rappers Pitbull and Nicki Minaj, and later joked about TMZ asking him about his taste in music.
The message, as one of his campaign advisers recently told Buzzfeed, is that Rubio won’t be “competing for who can be the whitest, oldest rich guy.” At the same time, Rubio holds a number of conservative beliefs that are increasingly at odds with younger voters. Internet meme-ready quotes like his infamous “I’m not a scientist, man” response on climate change haven’t helped either. The result has been a cascade of tweets upbraiding the youngish senator for what many see as retrograde positions on issues like the environment, immigration, and gay marriage.
On gay rights, Rubio is out of step even with Republican youth, 61% of whom favor same-sex marriage, according to a 2014 Pew poll. While the majority of conservative voters continue to oppose gay marriage, the Republican party’s opposition has been softening as attitudes slowly change and younger voters grow more prominent.
With about 37% of Twitter users between the ages of 18 and 29, according to Pew research, perhaps the social media giant was never going to be the perfect platform for Rubio – no matter how many savvy tweeters the Republican senator has on staff.