The presidential campaign: Marco Rubio
Almost immediately after arriving in Washington on the 2010 Tea Party wave, Marco Rubio began fielding questions about when he would launch a White House run. The Florida senator checked an awful lot of presidential boxes, after all, especially for a party in search of new blood. He’s young – now 44 years old – well-spoken, bilingual, the son of Cuban immigrants, and hails from a delegate-rich swing state. In April of this year, Rubio agreed: He was “uniquely qualified” to be the GOP nominee.
Because of his youth and relatively moderate campaign rhetoric, Rubio is often touted as the Republican Party’s best hope of appealing to younger voters and an increasingly diverse general electorate – in other words, big trouble for Hillary Clinton should she win the Democratic nomination. But aside from a 2013 immigration reform package that created a pathway to citizenship, Rubio’s record is anything but moderate. He’s against Obamacare, against same-sex marriage and LGBT nondiscrimination protections, against abortion even in cases of rape or incest, against the legalization of marijuana, skeptical of the science behind climate change, pro troops on the ground to fight ISIS, and pro tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy. Rubio has also taken a hard-right turn on immigration, largely disavowing his 2013 bipartisan reform package in favor of a piecemeal approach.
Political watchers like to cast Rubio as the “establishment candidate” duking it out for the nomination against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the “insurgent.” If that’s the case, Cruz is winning at this point both in terms of polling and fundraising. But Rubio’s doing his best to turn things around. In recent weeks, he’s gone after Cruz on immigration and national security, arguing that he’s just as tough as the Texas firebrand, if not more, on issues that matter to conservative voters. This week, Rubio is going straight for Cruz’s core base of support – “traditional values” voters – with a new ad campaign targeting those who Rubio says the government has “branded bigots and haters.”
The lurch to the right may tarnish Rubio’s good standing in a general-election matchup against Clinton – one of his biggest strengths as a candidate so far. But that’s a matchup that’ll never be if he can’t win the nomination.
These photographs were shot on assignment by photographer Mark Peterson for MSNBC Photography as part of his on-going body of work “Political Theater” which examines the landscape of the American political system.