Marco Rubio isn’t much of a name-dropper.
In a 45-minute speech in front of 1,600 supporters in Minneapolis Tuesday, the Republican senator from Florida and candidate for president referred briefly to Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and only alluded to his Republican opponents for the GOP nomination.
And he didn’t even mention the dozen or so Republican establishment leaders from Minnesota who recently endorsed him.
It’s doubtful it was an oversight that Rubio didn’t bring up the names of former Sen. Norm Coleman, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Erik Paulsen. More likely it was an acknowledgement that endorsements don’t carry much weight this election year.
In fact, Rubio said as much. “As candidates drop out, people join our team,” he said. “I admit, maybe I wasn’t their first choice because for a lot of people in the Republican establishment, they didn’t want me to run for president. They wanted me to wait in line. They wanted me to wait my turn. I didn’t know there was a line.”
Just who is and who is not establishment is a moving target, of course. Rubio was not establishment when he ran for the U.S. Senate with the support of the Tea Party. But is he establishment now because he’s an office holder? Does Donald Trump become establishment if he gets elected?
“I guess you could say anybody who is elected is establishment,” said Jeff Johnson, former candidate for governor who is the chair of Rubio’s Minnesota team. (Johnson is not one of those who dismiss the impact of an endorsement. “Norm Coleman is still popular with some people,” he said. “Every new endorsement might bring in a few new Republicans.”)
Rubio addressed those potential new faces directly in his speech. “I am asking you to caucus for me a week from today,” he said.
Yet on a day that would see Trump go on to win the Nevada caucus with 46 percent of the vote, Rubio acknowledged that voters are angry with the establishment, however it’s defined, and that tapping into that anger has produced results.
Nor did he predict victory in the Minnesota caucus — or any of the other 10 caucuses and primaries on Super Tuesday. Instead, he talked about his electability, mostly in terms of what he does not represent.
“This just can’t be an election about nominating someone because they seem angrier than anybody else. We’re all angry. We’re all frustrated. But you have to solve a problem,” he said, referring to Donald Trump. “So if we nominate someone that’s willing to say things that really express anger and you don’t get elected, what’s the point?”