In the weeks after Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, no Republican appeared to have a brighter future than Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Young, Spanish-speaking, and oratorically gifted, he seemed like the answer to everything ailing the GOP—he was the anti-Romney.
Many Republicans agreed. Charles Krauthammer, the influential conservative columnist, called on his party to embrace immigration reform and enlist Rubio to lead the way. “Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy on the road to 2016,” Krauthammer gushed. “It would transform the landscape. He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it.” Time magazine dubbed Rubio “The Republican Savior.” Political forces looked to be aligning in a way that would practically anoint him the GOP front-runner for 2016. Last March, Rubio solidified his “savior” status by almost knocking off Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, a popular cattle call for Republican presidential aspirants.