Two very different reactions from Beltway media, and those differences tell us much about the GOP problems and opportunities ahead, especially when combined with the reaction to New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman's chat with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday evening.
Friedman asked the likely Democratic nominee in 2016 not a single difficult question and only one semi-serious one about her record at State. She bobbed, weaved, dodged and told Friedman to read her memoir. He was, of course, silent as to her whereabouts and actions on the night of the Benghazi murders. That would have made news. It would also have been the end of access for Friedman.
On Wednesday I asked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio about (1) his timetable for deciding whether to run in 2016 (about a year from now), (2) whether he would keep a campaign for re-election to the Senate open as an exit strategy from a sputtering presidential bid (no, understood by some to be a jab at Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul whose forces are working to arrange for the possibility of simultaneous bids); (3) aircraft carrier groups (Rubio thinks the U.S. needs 12 or 13) and (4) Spanish-language media (which Rubio thinks wholly in the bag for Obamacare in a huge disservice to its audience.)
It was an impressive set of exchanges which generated as great a burst of commentary across Manhattan-Beltway media elites as my show has produced in a month, and on a day of massive breaking news from the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas.
On Thursday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came by and talked Obamacare and an alternative, but far more interestingly, to me, about Pope Francis and the liberal media's refusal to cover him fairly or in full. This is fascinating stuff, and important, as was our exchange on his timetable and on the rising trend of parents opting out of immunization, a curve ball thrown to gauge dexterity in responding to the unexpected.
The response to Jindal's very interesting answers? MSM crickets.
Rubio generated headlines. Jindal silence, and Hillary standard fawning.
Three conclusions. First, the MSM consider Rubio a real contender, and Jindal a pretender. Second, Hillary will be hurt by pent-up demand for an accounting that will never come from any of her pals. Three, everyone in America already knows that Hillary will be the nominee, knows she gets a free pass, knows it is a Bill/Hill ticket and 95 percent have made up their mind.
Thus comes the most boring and fascinating campaign in a quarter century, or since she made her first of six runs in which she has been a central character, though never a lead. Rubio is her antithesis, and her most dangerous foe, at least for now. Young, determined, different, serious, and, yes, Reaganesque.
This is not to count out Jindal or any of the serious GOP possibles: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Paul. Beloved conservative favorites Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee just are not looking like candidates, nor is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Of the list, Rubio makes the most weather. He, Christie and Cruz all make the weather, but Rubio makes it effortlessly and with all parts of a diverse, combative party, eager to play in all communities and with a new face, a new message, a new vigor.
Old, tired, protected Hillary. Young, risk-taking, energized Rubio. A hell of a fight.Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, law professor at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law, and author, most recently of The Happiest Life. He posts daily at HughHewitt.com and is on Twitter @hughhewitt.