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Marco Rubio Earns His Place in Top Tier

By Joe Klein, Time - September 26, 2015

At the second Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush were in the midst of a testy wrangle over whether it’s appropriate for presidential candidates to speak Spanish in public. “I want to tell you a story about someone who didn’t speak English that well,” Senator Marco Rubio interrupted, slicing to the argument’s core. “It was my grandfather.” He went on to explain that his grandfather was a Cuban exile who taught him to love America. “But he taught me that in Spanish,” Rubio explained, “and he became a conservative, even though he got his news in Spanish.” Case closed. And enter Marco Rubio, stage right, into the top tier of Republican candidates. Most of the praise after the debate went to the clever, succinct Carly Fiorina and her successful put-down of Trump’s assessment of her face. But Fiorina’s performance had gaping holes in it–specifically, her riveting, untruthful description of an abortion video that did not exist. Her skirmish with Donald Trump over who had the better business record was the functional equivalent of Greece and Syria arguing about who had the stronger economy. Both are snake-oil marketers, not managers. Meanwhile, Rubio has had two excellent debates now. He tells stories, which is good. He is selling youth–he is 44, but looks younger–and optimism, which is better. The substance of some of his remarks, especially on national-security policy, is questionable, but he has emerged as a plausible President at a moment when most of his competitors are demonstrating their implausibility.

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