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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Marco Rubio the Next Howard Dean?

The Rubio campaign is indeed wishing that they had not peaked so early. Had things not gone so swimmingly for them earlier this year, things might not be going quite so pear-shaped for them now. If they had peaked AFTER the filing period, Crist might not have gone the NPA route and could have found himself stuck in a GOP primary with no good path to victory over Rubio.

But that’s not what happened.

There is still plenty of time and opportunity for Rubio to mount a comeback, but political prognosticators are already predicting a Crist victory (Fivethirtyeight says that the Senate is projected to have .6 “Crists” in it next year – which is a roundabout way of saying that he’s giving Crist a 60% chance of taking this seat) and Rubio is finding that the enthusiasm he once engendered is slipping away.

I am not, of course privy, to Rubio’s internal polling (as a Democratic operative, I wouldn’t expect to share this with me), but their strategy suggests that they are hoping to secure the GOP base (minus some moderates), cede true independents to Crist, and hope that Crist and Meek/Greene sufficiently split the Democratic so that the far right base is enough to win Rubio a plurality (barring an epic collapse wherein either Crist or Meek/Greene drop below 10 points – no one is likely to get an outright majority).

I say this become Adam Smith at the St Pete Times said that he “saw little sign of him reaching beyond tea party activists and archconservatives.”

Rubio himself said, “Truth be told, I'm running against two Democrats in this election. Only one of them will admit it,”

Both these statements imply that Rubio’s campaign believes that something along the lines of 35-40% will be enough to win in the current circumstances.

This is not the first time we’ve asked whether Rubio might struggle with losing his insurgency status. I have wondered for a while if Rubio’s campaign might not resemble Howard Dean’s in some critical ways.

These days, if Howard Dean is remember for his ’04 presidential campaign, it is for “the scream” (though he is more likely to be remembered as a highly successful DNC chair than for any aspect of his presidential campaign anymore).

But we shouldn’t let “the scream” distract us from the real factors that led to his downfall. Remember, he screamed only after blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Iowa caucuses (he ultimately finished third in Iowa).

Dean was an insurgent candidate who rose based on significant strength in online contributions and support from the netroots/activist base. He rose in clear contrast to candidates who projected a more “moderate” image.

Sounds like a certain former speaker of the Florida House to me.

Dean’s meteoric rise was hampered by a failure to adjust to frontrunner status. His campaign had been designed to come from behind against the establishment. When he took the lead – he became the de facto establishment, winning the support and endorsement of key Democratic constituencies. And his operation did not know how to handle the change and couldn’t close the deal.

Does that also sound like Rubio?

It’s too soon to be sure – and Rubio does have something Dean didn’t have – the cautionary tale of the collapse of the Dean candidacy.

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