When a hostile reporter challenged Ronald Reagan to say what he would do differently than the struggling incumbent, Jimmy Carter, Reagan simply smiled and mildly replied:
As president of the United States, Reagan did change everything, or nearly everything. And we have an opportunity to nominate a candidate now who can do the same. When I taught college student interns at Family Research Council for 21 years, I gave them my Ronald Reagan lecture. I always emphasized that "the one we like must be liked by someone else." Reagan was that rare leader who combined likability and firmness of principle with determination to do each day what could be done.
Marco Rubio is following the Reagan model, and he too has that rare gift. Like the Gipper, he is the happy warrior. Even when attacked by snarky opponents or by snide reporters' loaded questions, Rubio never becomes irritable. He states his conservative positions with uncommon clarity and argues forcefully for the things we all hope to see put into practice. As even his critics acknowledge, he is a great communicator.
Clearly, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a proven fighter. As a graduate of Harvard Law School, he is in a position to know potential Supreme Court judges. And who would not want Ted Cruz leading the investigation of Planned Parenthood's illegal activities?
But Ted Cruz could do these vitally important things as a fearless Attorney General in a Marco Rubio cabinet. We must constantly remember that the very qualities that recommend Ted Cruz so highly to grassroots conservatives could make it harder to elect him in a nationwide campaign. He thrives on polarization.
Marco Rubio instantly brings California and New York into play in a general election. His greatest gift is the one his Cuban exile parents gave him as a toddler: He speaks Spanish fluently. He is the only candidate who can campaign for greatly enhanced border security, making the case in Spanish, and who is immune from the media assault on conservatives as "mean-spirited" and "anti-immigrant." They will try, but Marco's skills make him readily simpatico.
Republicans urgently need to break out of the media's box. No anti-immigrant party has ever survived. The Federalists in 1800 were defeated when Thomas Jefferson's running mate, Aaron Burr, rounded up every immigrant vote in New York. The Federalists never again won a national election. The Whigs collapsed in 1852 not over slavery, but because of immigration.
When Republicans in 1924 enacted the most restrictive immigration law since the Federalists' Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, they assured that immigrant voters would back the Democrats for the rest of the 20th century.
Only Eisenhower and Reagan were able to reach out to immigrant voters. They did so with their warm and welcoming demeanor. Ike's smile alone, it was said, was his philosophy.
Reagan learned the Eisenhower technique of smiling his way to landslide victories.
So did Barack Obama. Whatever else can be said of the President, he is a champion campaigner. When voters were asked in 2012 which candidate "cares about people like me," the often-icy Barack Obama still won hands down. Voters told pollsters—by a lopsided margin of 81-19—they didn't think Mitt cared about them.
They won't say that about Marco Rubio. He skillfully uses his family's story to establish bonds with blue-collar workers and their families. This is essential if we are to win the landslide we need to save endangered Senate seats. Without a smashing win, a President Rubio could find himself blocked by an intelligent and determined Senate leader like New York's Chuck Schumer.
On the critical issue of immigration, a President Rubio would emphasize that America needs immigrants who are legal, loyal and laboring. He is making the case for border security in a way that is not off-putting to millions of legal immigrants and their families.
Marco Rubio shares with Ted Cruz a 100 percent voting record on the Family Research Council Action Voters Guide in the 113th Congress. At the end of the 112th, Rubio had 71 percent, according to the FRC scorecard. That means both men are proven fighters on the issues that matter most to grassroots social conservatives.
Having established their conservative, pro-life, pro-family commitment, we can see that being able to work with the GOP establishment is not a hindrance but a necessary job skill.
William F. Buckley, Jr., was famous for many things. But his greatest gift was to free the conservative movement from any taint of anti-Semitism and racism. The founder of National Review gave us the Buckley Rule: I want the most conservative candidate who can be elected.
That's why, despite principled disagreement on some issues, Buckley backed Reagan in all three of his Presidential races. Marco Rubio is convincingly conservative. And with his other gifts, he can sweep the nation. America needs a sweep.
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