The top 3 GOP candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and billionaire Donald Trump, have each staked out their paths to the GOP nomination. Though they diverge at times, there are times when they compete with each other for important voting groups. In South Carolina, Rubio, Cruz and Trump compete with each other for evangelical voters.
One group that Sen. Rubio appears to have all to himself are millennial voters. Millennials are attracted to Sen. Rubio because they think he speaks their language. The first question for Sen. Rubio during CNN’s GOP town hall came from Maggie Grisell, a senior at Furman University on the subject of school debt.
While Ms. Grisell didn’t say that Sen. Rubio had won her over, it was clear that Sen. Rubio’s detailed answer was something that she hadn’t heard from any other presidential candidate.
One thing that Sen. Rubio has going for him are the people who have endorsed him:
This is sunny Rubio, his most natural political persona. The one who cracks jokes and pokes fun at himself for repeating them verbatim because they get laughs. The one who keeps a room rapt in silence when he tells his family’s rag-to-riches story. The one who made a point Thursday of standing side-by-side with a white congressman (Trey Gowdy), an African-American senator (Tim Scott), and an Indian-American governor (Nikki Haley) to offer a portrait of what the GOP could look like.
That type of diversity appeals to millennials. Whatever he’s doing, it appears to be working:
Scott says the loss taught Rubio how to be a better candidate. The greatest opportunities seem to be preceded by major obstacles said Scott. “Marco owns his obstacle, and I believe that it has led him to an authentic engagement with South Carolinians who have a fresh perspective and who have a better understanding of his passion to win.”
After several rallies, Scott said: “We have caught fire here.”
It doesn’t hurt when a smart campaign passes an unusual test. During one of his rallies Friday, an elderly gentleman collapsed while Sen. Rubio was speaking. Sen. Rubio stopped immediately, saying “I apologize guys. It appears we have some sort of medical situation. Is there anybody here who is a doctor or a medical professional? I think what we should do at this point is … I just want to thank you for coming tonight and it sounds like this might be an important situation so… Why don’t we just bow our heads in prayer?”
After leading the crowd in prayer, Sen. Rubio instructed the audience to stay seated so that first responders could get to the elderly gentleman quickly. Then Sen. Rubio told the audience “we’re gonna just stick around and shake everyone’s hands and let’s make sure we let everyone back there do their work and, again, thank you again for coming.”
Throughout that unanticipated situation, Sen. Rubio and Gov. Haley maintained their composure. They helped the crowd maintain their composure, too. While this wasn’t the type of crisis that a president might face, it’s still good to see that the moment wasn’t too big for Sen. Rubio.
Whether these things help Sen. Rubio have another dramatic finish like he had in Iowa or not, people aren’t thinking about Sen. Rubio’s performance in New Hampshire anymore. In fact, there’s little doubt that Sen. Rubio is carving out a distinct niche for himself. To quote Salena Zito, one of the people covering the South Carolina Primary, “Mark down South Carolina as the state where Marco Rubio got his groove back.”
While it’s improbable that Sen. Rubio will win this primary, there isn’t any doubt that his finishing kick is putting pressure on Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz. Likewise, there’s no doubt that Sen. Rubio is sending the signal that he’ll be part of the fight for the GOP nomination for the long haul.