Politically it was by no means a crazy strategy. For all his blunders, George W. Bush is still the only Republican candidate for president to win the popular vote in the last 25 years, and the only figure to successfully unite and lead a fractious party. Parts of Bushism look more optimistic, inclusive and economically relevant than either the angrier Tea Party message that Rubio piggybacked on in his 2010 Senate campaign or the generic “Mr. Republican” messages that John McCain and Mitt Romney lost with in 2008 and 2012. And with the Middle East in flames, Russia increasingly aggressive and the Islamic State camped out in Iraq and Syria, you can see why many conservative elites imagined that Americans — and Republican primary voters, especially — might want a more hawkish, even Bushian successor to Barack Obama.
But alas for Rubio it turned out that Republicans didn’t want any of this.