In his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Senator Marco Rubio has become the unofficial king of momentum. He has consistently faced setbacks during the primary and caucus stage, but has managed to spin those setbacks into opportunities to boost his momentum.
With several key caucuses and primaries behind us, all of the 2016 presidential candidates continue to vigorously campaign. During presidential election years these electoral events receive a substantial amount of media coverage and they have historically been important markers of candidate popularity and momentum.
Whether or not these events have a noteworthy effect on the final popular vote for president remains unclear. However, it is worth noting their relationship to popularity and momentum, more specifically, in terms of this year’s presidential candidate, Senator Marco Rubio.
After the Iowa Caucus, Senator Rubio was gaining momentum. He received 23.1% of the vote trailing closely behind Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. With the remaining candidates each receiving less than 10% of the vote, this third place finish was a significant step toward becoming a viable alternative.
According to a poll conducted during the week before the New Hampshire Primaries by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, support for Senator Rubio increased putting him ahead of Senator Cruz. His presence in the Republican race was clear.
Raoul Hernandez, 59, a Miami businessman and Rubio supporter, explained, “I was so confident coming out of the caucus. Everything seemed like it was falling into place. It was shocking to see how quickly things turned for him.”
Senator Rubio’s momentum leading into the Republican debate days before the primary was undeniable. However, after an incredibly disappointing debate performance the Republican race would change in a way no one could have anticipated. Support for Senator Rubio would drop significantly leading to a fifth place finish in New Hampshire.
Natalie Loos, 30, a New York businesswoman and Rubio supporter didn’t seem too worried about Rubio’s poor performance. She explained, “I think he’s going to be fine. I really don’t think one debate is going to ruin his chance completely.”
Loos was right. Rubio was fine.
Senator Rubio used his New Hampshire loss to increase his momentum heading into South Carolina. At an event in South Carolina before the primary, Rubio explained that he was “at peace” with what had happened and was ready to move forward with God on his side.
Rubio’s faith seemed to be the focus of much of his campaigning in South Carolina. In an attempt to move away from the robotic style Governor Chris Christie called him out for during the New Hampshire debate debacle, Rubio went for a more candid, personal approach. His strategy worked.
Senator Rubio took second place in South Carolina Primary by a narrow margin of .2% ahead of Senator Cruz and finished 10% behind Trump.
In a statement after the primary he, explained, “Tonight here in South Carolina the message is pretty clear. This country is now ready for a new generation of conservatives to guide us into the 21st century.”
Rubio has demonstrated an ability to change loss into opportunity. In a sense, he has created his own momentum, but it is unclear whether or not this will be enough to secure him the nomination.