- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2014

Sen. Marco Rubio has gone to Asia. No, really. He has. The Florida Republican left Saturday for a weeklong tour of Japan, the Philippines and South Korea — his agenda filled with power meetings and photo ops with Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; assorted military officials and diplomats plus U.S. troops. Mr. Rubio has struck a very authoritative posture.

“Asia is vitally important to the future of America’s security and economic well-being,” he says. “America must make sure that our rhetoric about increasing our presence in Asia does not come at the expense of enduring alliances and challenges in other parts of the world. The United States has long been a Pacific power and it is vital that we maintain our robust military and diplomatic presence in the region while adapting to new realities.”

OK. That sounds good. Photos from Mr. Rubio’s many visits in Japan on Monday show the lawmaker obviously on a serious listening tour; he is, after all, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee. So we shall see.

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And whether or not they remember his curious on-camera water break of almost a year ago, Republican voters still appear to have a place in their heart for Mr. Rubio, now 42, with three years of Senate experience and a second book about the future of the GOP in the works.

A new NBC/Marist College poll reveals that on a list of 10 potential presidential candidates, Mr. Rubio is fifth — outranking Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Mr. Rubio is eclipsed in popularity by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in first place, followed by Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Rand Paul and Jeb Bush.

Marco Rubio is facing the most consequential decision of his political career since entering the U.S. Senate campaign that made him a national figure: to seek re-election or to run for president,” observes Alex Leary, who is Washington bureau chief for the Tampa Bay Times.

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“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

That is but a tiny snippet of a big study by the Republican National Committee. That would be the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a painstaking, 100-page analysis of why the GOP lost the 2012 election. It was released 10 months ago. The clock is already ticking on the 2014 midterms, and the 2016 presidential election is no longer a distant horizon.

So are Republicans, uh, still talking to themselves? The committee’s winter meeting begins Wednesday; there are multiple closed press forums, and some high-profile speakers, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Mike Huckabee, who most recently instructed the GOP to stop looking for political purity and quit using the acronym “RINO”, or “Republican in name only.” So what about the growth and opportunity? The curious can revisit ancient wisdom here: Goproject.gop.com.


The midterm election season is off to a rickety start. Among the two major parties, there are few meaningful moments, much flailing and potshots. Libertarians and the tea party brim with glee. Are Republicans and Democrats already weary? Well, yes. The campaign trail has taken on an aberrant life of its own that often defies logic. It’s expensive. But there’s also some genuine strife.

“Both parties are suffering great internal fractures. The Republicans’ family feud is much more open and bloody than that of Democrats, because Republicans are the party that is not in power. But this midterm election cycle will publicly scrape open the Democrats’ wounds, as they move away from Barack Obama and struggle with the progressive faction of their party,” says Salena Zito, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page columnist

“And there are signs that this election cycle may become a GOP resurrection. It takes time for a party to get its act together after losing, and Republicans finally are getting themselves together after their 2008 defeat,” she continues.

“In many ways, the ‘tea party’ victory of 2010 was something of an illusion about the GOP’s strength because many of those voters were not party regulars, which gave Republicans a false sense of hope about their chances in 2012,” Ms. Zito adds.

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