Don't bother to tell us that you're still tired from the election cycle that just finished, that you're waiting for the GOP to stop arguing over who is most to blame for Mitt Romney's decisive loss. The 2016 race is already on.
Governor Chris Christie burnished his so-cool-I'm-hot credentials with a visit to Saturday Night Live. Wearing his trademark "hurricane fleece," he dropped in on SNL's "Weekend Update" to talk about Sandy relief efforts--and to show that he can joke about his well-known short temper and his mad love for Bruce Springsteen. Christie thanked the Red Cross and first responders. He also thanked his wife, who he said has put up with "a husband who has smelled like a wet fleece for the last three weeks." He closed by quoting lyrics from The Boss's song "Atlantic City."
Barbara Walters named him one of the "10 Most Fascinating People of 2012."
Another GOP rising star, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, spent his Saturday night in Altoona, Iowa, headlining a birthday fundraiser for Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad. Several hundred people turned out in the caucus state to hear Rubio speak about lower taxes, fewer government regulations on businesses, job training and a stronger nuclear family. His speech in Iowa (and a GQ interview) turned up the buzz that he's starting his presidential campaign. Even on election night, George Will pronounced him the Republican candidate to watch in 2016, saying
"During the Republican nominating process, the party turned first to one person and then to another to try and avoid what turned out to be inevitable. If there's a winner tonight, it's the Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio because all eyes are now going to be turned to him as a man who might have a way to broaden the demographic appeal of this party."
In a new interview with GQ, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was asked how old he thinks the planet is. His answer is getting a lot of attention:
"I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. ... At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."
The punditocracy had plenty to say:
"How can you read that and not think 'Iowa'?" declared David Weigel for Slate. He cited a January 2011 poll that found that 68% of GOP caucus-goers believed Earth was created in six days and 45% think the planet hasn't hit its 10,000th birthday yet.
Rubio's continued reminders that he's "not a scientist" hint that he actually does believe science over the Bible when it comes to the age of the earth, wrote Dan Amira in New York. But Rubio would "rather straddle the fence between the religious right and the science-believing wings of the GOP and fall back on a this isn't about the economy so it shouldn't concern me evasive maneuver." But it makes him sound ridiculous.
Actually, this was probably the right move, argued Alex Altman in Time. Yes, Rubio's answer "will horrify liberals—not to mention scientists," but it could be "shrewd politics" when it comes to appealing to many GOP voters. Then again, if the "pragmatic faction" of the Republican Party regains control, Rubio may have just "tether[ed] himself to a know-nothing strain of conservative politics that is bound to be expurgated as Republicans reckon with what went wrong this year."
But Rubio and Christie aren't the only possible candidates lurking around: there's always Sarah Palin. Charlotte Allen from Weekly Standard writes:
"Palin can more than keep up with the Democrats in appealing to voters' emotions. Hardly anyone could be more blue collar than Palin, out on the fishing boat with her hunky blue-collar husband, Todd. Palin is 'View'-ready, she's 'Ellen'-ready, she's Kelly-and-Michael-ready. A Palin 'war against women'? Hah! Not only is she a woman, she's got a single-mom daughter, Bristol, to help with the swelling single-mom demographic. On social issues, Palin, unlike Romney, has been absolutely consistent. And let's remember that most Americans, whatever their view of choice, disapprove of most abortions. Gay marriage? Palin opposes it. But she is also a strong advocate of states' rights, and I'm betting she'd be fine with letting states and their voters grapple with the issue on their own.
Dubbing Palin the "new Ronald Reagan," Allen noted that looks in fact do matter in elections. "Palin at age 48 has it all over her possible competition, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will be 69 by election day 2016...Men love Sarah Palin, and she loves men."
Oh yes, men. The ones that Romney carried. The ones that weren't enough to put him in the White House. Back to the future!