Jonathan, I agree with you completely. What’s interesting is that Rubio not only claims an affecting personal narrative; it’s a narrative that incorporates an organic backdrop of American exceptionalism. On the level of ideas, this makes for a stunning and sincere American story. Politically, it gives him an exponential edge on the Obama precedent.
Obama’s claim that his very existence is the product of an only-in-America story never quite made sense. As he frames it, it is the unlikely meeting, in Hawaii, of his Kenyan father and Kansan mother that translates into a uniquely American tale. But in truth, people from different countries can meet and couple off almost anywhere that allows a modicum of international travel. The story of Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham is a story of American geography. Marco Rubio’s story is of another type entirely. As the son of Cuban exiles who came to America specifically to capitalize on its freedoms, Rubio’s only-in-America narrative is ideologically constitutive of, and concordant with, his political bearing. That’s the kind of power that transcends charisma.