The continuing adventures of the Florida pepper mill

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Ever since Marco Rubio received a samurai sword from Governor Jeb Bush in the mid 2000s on the floor of the Florida House I’ve heard miracles about his speechifying ability. My parents are Cuban, after all, so why shouldn’t I identify with a story about a hardscrabble life in exile, right? But since winning the 2010 senatorial contest Rubio keeps coming across as a puffy dogmatist who recites anecdotes like a preschooler does the Lord’s Prayer. I haven’t seen one example of the junior senator from Florida’s putative charisma: not during that race, not during the delicious interval between November 2012 and summer 2013 when Charles Krauthammer anointed him the brown-skin wonder who would lead the GOP out of its demographic doldrums. In the last few months as he’s failed to convince even a Kiwanis club treasurer in Des Moines about his ability to serve as president, the political media’s finally realized what I have. What a pleasure to read this dispatch from Leonid Bershidsky, who catches a candidate who inspires nothing more than golf claps from an Osceola audience while Cruz has them by the throat:

Rubio is earnest, humorless, prone to long stories about his poor childhood in an immigrant neighborhood and his gratitude toward the country that gave his family a home and him a chance at a bright political future. Cruz is full of malicious fun. “They had a blizzard in Washington, closed down the government,” he said, grinning in that freezing barn. “Praise the Lord,” came a voice from the back of the room, and everyone, including the candidate, laughed. “It was so cold I actually saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets,” Cruz continued.

Where Rubio sounds idealistic, selling a bright future for an exceptionalist America, Cruz is all about a war for the conservative values he says are being eroded, a crusade in which every day counts, everyone is a soldier, and the biggest question is, “Where were you when the battle was fought?”

You can’t wage perpetual war when you sound like a blender. You can’t inspire troops when your voice trembles like a sophomore asked to read an essay after he hides behind the student in front of him. You can’t vote for a man who wears a suit like a lamppost, parts his hair like he’s been bald since twelve, and has the charisma of a pepper mill.

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