The Online Right and Rubio

By Too Conservative

rubioYesterday Florida Governor Charlie Crist declared his intentions to run as an Independent, and yesterday I took a long time to reminisce: how did we get here? I offer to you that without the power of the web, Marco Rubio would not be the defacto Republican nominee.

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Snow was on the ground when I first met Marco Rubio back in 2007. At that point, he was the relatively unknown Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, who flew up to New Hampshire to assist Governor Huckabee’s Presidential campaign. A year ago, as I was watching the Florida Senate race unfold to its recent movie-esque dramatic crescendo, Marco Rubio was an asterisk in the polls. After all, how could the former Speaker of the Florida House compete against the incumbent, popular, cash-cow that was Governor Charlie Crist?

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And then on May 18, 2009 the NRSC endorsed Crist over Rubio, and many in DC (and even some in Florida) thought the race was over. I remember multiple posts and articles in summer 2009 speculating that it was Rubio who would drop out.

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An example:

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With Republican front runner Charlie Crist trouncing Rubio in fundraising and Rubio trying to bat down rumors he’ll drop out to run for attorney general, the staff shakeup is likely to fuel new questions about Rubio’s long-term viability.

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Amazing how things can change, huh?

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While I don’t agree with Erick Erickson on approach, I have paid very close attention to this race (disclosure: I was an NRSC staffer for all of 2009), and I believe the rise of Rubio was mostly fueled by the online-right, not just specifically RedState, but a conglomeration of organic, unorganized, online tea-party activists, and righty-blogs.This coalition was critical to the success of Rubio’s campaign, carrying his message and helping to raise money via small dollar donors, even when he was being significantly outraised by Governor Crist.

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At the writing of this post Marco Rubio had over 61,000 Facebook fans, compared to Crist’s 15,000. While Fan #s don’t always translate into support, in this case it appears to be a glaring statistic showing the natural tendency of the conservative netroots to sway Rubio’s way. What would have happened to the Florida Senate race if blogs, web video, and web fundraising hadn’t been a factor? It’s a question that will never be answered, but in hypothetical land, I think Marco would have had a much harder time getting his message out.

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Would love to hear feedback and thoughts. Are we at a point in 2010, where immense support from the internet and netroots can counter establishment money and endorsements?


Comments

  • Let's Be Free says:

    I (I think like many others) am looking for fresh-faced candidates who are free of establishment ties and ready to lead onward and upward. Frankly, starting around 2000, the R’s installed and then promoted a lot of B and C teamers. The web is a great way to bring out the new generation. The Dems caught on to the right medium and the right messenger first — now it’s time for the Reps to roll.

  • Rob Iola says:

    Well, all that and The Hug…

  • Brian S says:

    I think Vincent is on to something here. One of the benefits of having a vocal and active base of support on the web is that it allows a quick way of getting information out. Crist isn’t doing half the things online Rubio has done, and I think that’s hurt him. And I also think Crist made some pretty big errors in assuming that activists using Youtube and the web wouldn’t be monitoring every thing he said and waiting with baited breath to use it against him. I’ve seen the video of Crist saying he’d never go independent almost everywhere lately. It’s pretty funny.

  • Loudoun Lady says:

    I agree with Let’s be Free, and I’ll second “the hug” – which was Rubio’s opening. Minus “the hug” and the leverage that gave him, Rubio may still be where he is but it might not have been a come out of nowhere rise.
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    On the contrary, I don’t think Rubio is exactly a nobody – and with the web and youtube insta-media – we will see more state reps making bold moves. I welcome it, if they are capable they have a greater chance of winning. Look at Scott Brown – state legislator one month, the next he is leading in a Senatorial race in MA.
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    To some extent it is generational, but we see wise candidates like Bob McDonnell learning the lessons of the Obama marketing on-line. I submit McDonnell is more substance than style, and Obama mostly looked nice and sounded good – but history is being made in elections. Personally I love the shake up, and I hope Crist loses the race and that horrible tan.

  • kelley in virginia says:

    America loves an underdog. And that is what Rubio was (as well was Scott Brown). Scott Brown had moneybombs on Ace, too which was helpful–again, the “new” media played a part.

    ****and after the 5th district Republican primary, the winner (probably state Senator Robert Hurt, Chatham) will be completely broke & Pelosi-enabler Democrat Perriello will have approx. $2 million in the bank.

    ***we will need a moneybomb from our friends in NOVA then!

  • local gop says:

    is it just me or does he look like he’s about to kill someone in that pic lol

  • Loudoun Lady says:

    Rubio looks determined.

  • Rtwng Extrmst says:

    TC is missing the real issue here. It’s all nice that Rubio used the web to help his campaign, but here we are once again with evidence that a squishy Republican loses a fair primary race and instead of supporting the Conservative, selfishly tries to hand the race to a Lib by running as an independent. Can anyone say Russ Potts????

    remember this???? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beQFvq1DF94

    Crist is an absolute LOSER!

  • Dan says:

    Crist kind of reminds you of Joe Lieberman, doesn’t he?

  • Loudoun Lady says:

    Joe Lieberman won because he was in the line with the voters of his state, Crist is not – as evidenced by polling and ever dropping approval ratings.

  • Elder Berry says:

    Got to disagree, cause what I see is that national fringe right-wingers just like we have here in Loudoun have poured lots of time and energy into pushing out a moderate Republican who could win the general in favor of a far-right guy who is likely to lose the general. Just like happens in Loudoun. You really expect Crist to sit on the sidelines because tea party bloggers funnel money to Rubio?

    I refuse to call those people conservatives, they are the fringe,and it is time we started being honest about it and treated them that way. Maybe then people might feel they could come back to the party they used to trust, the party they grew up with. Instead of this crazy bunch who spout divisive social slogans instead of implementing real conservative fiscal policy.

  • Brian S says:

    Rubio looked pretty good on Fox News Sunday this morning.

  • Steve Vaughan says:

    Yeah, congratulations to the online right for putting Democrats in the hunt in U.S. Senate race they had no chance in before. As BOTH parties contract to their bases and conduct purges of anyone who dares to deviate from the party line, America’s hunger for a true independent choice, not right, not left, but rational, will continue to grow.

  • Dan says:

    If Crist wins in November will it be possible for him to caucus with the Republicans? They have scorched the earth pretty effectively where he is concerned.
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    Caucusing with the majority would have great advantages for him. And Florida might benefit as well. If he wins it will make for an interesting first week of January.

  • Dan says:

    Rasmussen just released a poll of this race done after the announcement that Crist will run as an independent. It has Crist in the lead at 38%, Rubio at 34% and Meek at 17%. Margin of error is 4.5%
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    This is going to be an interesting race. If Meek doesn’t get his numbers up he may be viewed as having no chance by some voters who would have voted for him in a two way race with Rubio. Those folks may well switch to Crist.
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    I wouldn’t count Mr. Crist out just yet. You may be calling him Senator Crist in January.

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