We’re a day away from the New Hampshire primary as the race to the Presidency continues on its second stop. It’s panning for fool’s gold to take the results as a signifier of how nominations will eventually pan out, but the case of Marco Rubio is fascinating to me.
He emerged from the Iowa caucuses as the establishment frontrunner, finishing a close third to winner Ted Cruz and runner-up Donald Trump. He was the one who got the most favorable press out of Iowa simply because he almost beat Trump. The storyline was that Trump was a paper tiger and Cruz was sure to lose in the New Hampshire primary.
Then Saturday night’s debate happened.
In what was a curious strategy, Chris Christie blasted Rubio up and down and the Florida senator was under attack all night. (Surprisingly, Cruz and Trump were largely left untouched.)
The storyline now is that Rubio is too practiced to win as he kept repeating the same message over and over. “Let’s dispel once and for all this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country and make this country more like the rest of the world,” Rubio said on repeat.
As @dick_nixon (a remarkably astute political parody account) said, “He sounded like a Chatty Cathy doll with a stuck voice box.”
Rubio from a brand perspective.
Let’s look at this from a brand standpoint. The political ramifications may very well be damaging as many past Presidents (such Reagan, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush) won based on the force of their personality and message. An overly practiced message turns you into Michael Dukakis.
Staying on point is crucial when developing a brand because any step away from that brand message is ultimately damaging to the brand. The message becomes less believable.
But there’s a crucial difference in having a strong brand and what Marco Rubio is doing here. The message must be deeply meaningful to your audience.
The thing I kept thinking about when I heard Rubio repeat the same mantra is that he’d better have the right message or he’s going to be tuned out.
For any message to be effective, it must be important to the target audience (I’m not sure if this one is) and different than what the competition is saying (Trump said it was different in the debate, but emotionally it feels the same).
My guess is that Rubio will need to find a different message to have a chance at the Republican nomination. While being on message is fine, the message has been so ineffective that the right and the left are mocking him.