Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio waits to speak at a caucus site on Feb. 1, 2016 in Clive, Iowa.
Photo by Paul Sancya/AP

A generation later, Rubio flubs ‘Morning in America’

Marco Rubio’s new television ad is generating a fair amount of attention, but not for reasons his campaign will like. In the opening moments of the minute-long “morning in America” spot, viewers see a boat crossing a harbor – which wouldn’t be especially interesting except for the fact that it’s a Canadian harbor.
And while that’s obviously amusing, it’s not the only reason to pay attention to the ad.
The “morning in America” reference, of course, is not accidental. It’s a phrase many Americans, especially Republicans, will probably recognize as a signature theme of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign. Remember this ad from 32 years ago? For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the script:
“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
And now, consider the message of Rubio’s version of the same ad. Note it’s mirror-image parallels.
“It’s morning again in America. Today, more men and women are out of work than ever before in our nation’s history. People pay more in taxes than they will for food, housing, and clothing combined. Nearly 20 trillion in debt for the next generation, double what it was just eight years ago. This afternoon, almost 6,000 men and women will be married, and with growing threats and growing government, they’ll look forward with worry to the future. It’s morning again in America and under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton our country is more vulnerable, divided, and diminished than ever before. Why would we ever want for more years, again, of that?”
Maybe the whole “morning” metaphor was a little too subtle for Marco Rubio.
The point of Reagan’s “morning in America” was optimism. “Mornings,” as a metaphor, are about new beginnings, fresh starts, and the hopes that come with a new day and new possibilities. It’s why the Republican icon made it the theme of his re-election campaign – he wanted people to feel good about the country.
Our dreams aren’t dying; they’re just getting started. It’s not the end of an American promise; it’s the beginning.
Rubio’s ad keeps saying “it’s morning again in America,” except the Florida senator doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using “morning” incorrectly. To hear Rubio tell it, the United States is on the verge of a dystopian nightmare as our country descends into a hellhole. Rubio’s “morning” isn’t about new beginnings and new possibilities; it’s about waking up, opening the window shade, and feeling as miserable and pessimistic as possible.
It’s as if the senator got confused, and thought “morning” and “twilight” were effectively the same thing.
This is, however, part of a pattern. For months, Rubio’s polls were stagnant when he tried to run a positive, optimistic campaign, so he decided to scrap his message and adopt Trump’s script as his own. As of a couple of months ago, Rubio began telling the public the United States is “in decline” the American dream is “dying.”
This new commercial is a continuation of the theme. Rubio is selling crushing pessimism with a smile, assuming people won’t pay attention to the fact that he’s not pitching Reagan’s message; he’s offering the literal opposite.