Marco Rubio’s new ad reminds Iowans that he’s a Christian…and that’s about it

Marco Rubio is set to air a new ad in Iowa this weekend in which he, like a sixteen year-old missionary preaching on a street corner for the first time, recites what it means to be a Christian:

That’s it. That’s the whole ad. No vision for the country. No policy agenda. He didn’t even suggest that the LGBT community is destroying America this time.

Just “I’m Marco Rubio, and I’m a Christian like you”:

Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ. The struggle on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this. The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan, to those who much has been given much is expected and we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in Heaven and to me I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.

Running in a Republican primary, and hoping to do well enough in Iowa to emerge as the establishment’s alternative to Trump and Cruz — a title that Chris Christie has recently been making moves toward — it’s somewhat inevitable that Rubio has to try and out-Jesus all of his opponents. And given his religious background, having roots in the Mormon, Catholic and Protestant communities, it wasn’t exactly implausible that he would be able to do so with some degree of success. He may always be the Sunday school student to Ted Cruz’s pastor, but that may help him do well enough with conservative Christians to keep him afloat while he consolidates establishment support.

At least, that’s the game plan.

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

But I think it’s worth stepping back and considering just how strange it is that a candidate with a real chance at winning a major party’s nomination for President of the United States is running an ad like this. Or, rather, how strange it would be for a Democratic candidate to run an ad like this. Because for all of the GOP’s lamentations over liberals’ and Democrats’ “identity politics,” it’s hard to imagine any Democratic candidate thinking of or getting away with running an ad that’s nothing more than pure identity signaling.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton ran a 30 second spot that was nothing more than a few sentences of her thoughts on being a grandmother. Or if Barack Obama had, caving to conservative demands that he “prove” his Christianity, run an ad with the same script as Rubio’s above? With nothing to tie those experiences and identities back to anything resembling a political worldview or governing agenda. It would have been really, really weird, right?

And heaven help Obama if he had run an ad about what it meant to grow up as a person of color in the United States.

Of course, candidates like Rubio run ads like these because they work. There’s a significant chunk of Republican voters in Iowa (and throughout the country, for that matter) who care very deeply that their candidate of choice performs a particular brand of Christianity. They aren’t as concerned with whether Rubio’s tax plan is regressive so long as they trust that he had Jesus on his mind when his team put the plan together.

But if you asked them, I’m sure they’d tell you how important it is to them that candidates run “substantive” campaigns that talk about “the issues.”

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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16 Responses to “Marco Rubio’s new ad reminds Iowans that he’s a Christian…and that’s about it”

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  2. Ken says:

    Actually, I think he DID tie this ad to his policy decisions, regardless of the topic. For those of us who are recovering fundamentalists, that last sentence is like a flashing neon sign: “to me I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.” Very clearly a dog whistle to tell potential supporters that every decision he makes will be determined by/guided by his faith; not whether it is good for the country as a whole, but whether it helps him (and other fundamentalist christians) “store up their treasures in heaven”. Any potential presidential candidate who would so plainly state that their faith will override any other influence if elected scares me to death. Literally.

  3. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    Rubio and the rest of the republican presidential candidates are NOT Christians as they do not follow any of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  4. BeccaM says:

    So Rubio wants to be elected with the votes of nobody but devout fundamentalist Christians. The types who ignore that whole “pray alone in your room, quietly” directive and go all public with their false piety and simpering sycophancy. Got it.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Exactly, and (3) claim that every single opinion, policy, and proposal you have isn’t yours, but an irrefutable embodiment of Christianity itself, and so to disagree with you is to disagree with the supreme UberDeity of the entire universe.

    Like, “I don’t hate gay people. But God says I have to oppress you and deny your basic humanity, so sucks to be you, sorry.”

  6. Melo11 says:

    Can’t understand Rubio’s actions at all..

  7. Zorba says:

    “I’m not a witch!”

  8. UncleBucky says:

    Empty-headed christianISM. I’m THIS, and if you are too, we are both THIS.

    I get it. You don’t know how to be President.

  9. Charles Carey says:


  10. nicho says:

    How much more evidence did we need? There isn’t one person in the GOP race who should be elected dogcatcher, never mind president.

  11. Charles Carey says:

    Additional evidence that he should not be president.

  12. 2karmanot says:


  13. 2karmanot says:

    “Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time.” Oh. Sweet Pea are you in for a big surprise.

  14. noGOP says:

    what I suspect he’s doing is this:

    1- firmly establish and publicly announce your devout christianity.

    2- accuse anyone who attacks you of attacking christianity.

  15. gratuitous says:

    But did he say he’s not a witch?

  16. nicho says:

    I think even devout Christians recognize pandering when they see it. It’s kind of like when Hillary tried to pass herself off as an “abuela.” The Latino community was less than impressed.

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