Marco Rubio may have come in third in the Iowa caucus behind both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, but for reasons that remain unclear his team – and the media – are treating it like he just locked up the presidency. (Don’t break out the champagne just yet, Rubio fans, third place finishers almost never end up winning the nomination.)
But clearly thrilled with the narrative that he had pulled off a political upset…by coming in third… Rubio delivered a tone-deaf “victory” speech about how no one thought he could do it… come in third, that is.
“So this is the moment they said would never happen. For months, for months they told us we had no chance. For months they told us because we offer too much optimism in a time of anger, we had no chance. For months they told us because we didn’t have the right endorsements or the right political connections, we had no chance. They told me that we have no chance because my hair wasn’t gray enough and my boots were too high.”
To political insiders watching the speech, there was growing bafflement. Anyone with any familiarity with one of Obama’s most iconic speeches – when he won the Iowa caucus in 2008, a very real upset – noticed immediately that Rubio was pretty much plagiarizing the sitting-president almost verbatim.
“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”
Like any copy-cat, Rubio’s version paled in comparison to the original. Obama’s speech was forceful, aspirational, and concise. It set the tone for Obama’s entire campaign. Here was an underdog who no one believed could do it, handily beating the favored choices. As a result, Obama’s comments felt earned. Rubio is using a more “fake it til you make it” approach.
Hilariously, Obama’s former speechwriter was one of the people scratching their heads at Rubio’s carbon copy. He scorched Rubio’s campaign in a tweet.
He could've at least thanked Obama for the opening line https://t.co/meP627U6pv
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) February 2, 2016
Obviously, Rubio couldn’t thank Obama for giving him his speech. Rubio has, like all Republicans, continually bashed the president to score cheap political points. Ironically – and this really is shaping up to be the year that irony jumped the shark – Rubio may owe his entire presidential campaign to Obama’s history-making one just eight years ago. Like Obama, Rubio is young and relatively inexperienced in national politics. He’s considered a long-shot, but one who hopes to appeal to younger generations.
However, before we start viewing Rubio as a conservative Obama, let’s remember the things that separate the two: Obama was young, but he was also a great magnetic personality. The vibrancy of his campaign and his own charisma gave him a huge boost, where so far Rubio blends into the background of nearly every stage he takes. He also has a history of politically-motivated flip flops, a Romney-esque ability to change with the direction of the wind and come out looking like both a moral coward and a shameful opportunist.
But perhaps the most telling sign of Rubio’s paper thin comparison to Obama is the fact that he has so little to say that he needs to borrow the words of Obama just to have a coherent message at all. Obama – love him or hate him – was his own man, Rubio is whoever you want him to be. And that’s pretty sad.
Feature image via Flickr