In 2008, Sarah Palin took the country by storm as a relatable “hockey mom” running for Vice President. Today, at CPAC, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) began on the road toward establishing himself as the charismatic and folksy “football dad” preparing to run for President.
As he prepares for a likely 2016 run, Rubio delivered a stirring speech markedly different from the speech too often given by wealthier candidates. It was intended to be a clear departure from the tactics of the Romney strategists and attempted to take on the liberal assumption that conservatives are elitist. His speech was aimed at the middle class “just folks” of America.
As he sought to do that, Rubio took a page from Palin’s book and cited an example of a couple whose child plays with the Senator’s son on a 7-8-year-old football team. The story made Rubio seem compassionate, relatable, and knowledgeable about America’s great love of sports.
Rubio humorously and poignantly noted that the couple were not “freeloaders;” they were not “liberals.”
Many were excited about Palin’s passion for hockey, and many were concerned that the fact that the sport to which Mitt Romney was most closely linked was “dressage,” the sport in which his wife’s horse competed in the Olympics.
Meanwhile, Romney and McCain, who likewise was lacking in the sports anecdote department, ran against a man who very publicly fills out NCAA Tournament brackets, plays hoops every time he can, and has played more rounds of golf than any man not on the PGA Tour.
It is unclear to what extent Rubio will use sports in his potential campaign. What is clear, however, is that the presidential hopeful will use such references to culture to pass the “beer test,” and, at this point, that may make him an even more attractive candidate for conservatives eager to win in 2016 than his ethnic appeal, persuasive speaking style, or conservative credentials.
Conservatives eager to win in 2016 ought to be hoping to hear more sports references from potential candidates.