With Marco Rubio’s campaign for the presidency likely drawing its last breaths, the candidate’s focus should be squarely on a single, attainable victory—one that is still well within reach. Not a surprise upset of Donald Trump in Rubio’s home state of Florida, but instead a far more glorious triumph—on the mega-popular reality show Dancing With the Stars.
Marco Rubio, as far as we know, has not given any indication that he plans to compete on Dancing With the Stars (the 22nd season of the show begins in a few weeks). But of all the career paths left for the senator, a star turn on one of America’s favorite television programs simply makes the most sense.
Let’s work backwards. Every day makes it increasingly unlikely that Rubio will become president. In last night’s two primaries, he lost by 27 points in Michigan and 42 points in Mississippi, failing to pick up a single delegate in either state. There is no real argument for Rubio winning the election beyond “it will eventually happen, trust us” and/or “we will just steal it at the convention.” His campaign is strenuously denying that he is contemplating dropping out, but that decision now feels inevitable.
Rubio is also not returning to politics, at least not immediately. He announced last year that he would not be running to retain the Senate seat he currently holds. His term ends early next year, and there is no logical next step for him in public office unless he wants to run for governor of Florida in 2018.
But why would he do that? Marco Rubio does not seem to like holding elective office. He is not a lifer, drawn to serving his community and destined to whither away on Capitol Hill to the tears and adoration of his longtime colleagues. The Washington Post story regarding him relinquishing his Senate seat says plainly: “Rubio gives up on Senate: ‘He hates it.’” Somewhere, Rod Smart’s ears tingled softly.
What Marco Rubio seems to like most is money. In the nine years he spent in the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio made hundreds of thousands of dollars per year by taking side jobs with law firms that lobbied the state legislature. According to the Washington Post, Rubio made $414,000 in his final year in state government despite legislative salaries being “about $29,000 a year.”
Rubio also likes to spend money. A New York Times report on his family’s fluctuating finances stated that upon receiving $800,000 to write a book about his life, Rubio purchased an $80,000 speedboat, despite various debts. Further, via the Times:
By the end of 2005, the Rubios had completed the purchase of a new home, twice the size of their previous one, for $550,000. The house, among the more expensive in West Miami, stood out from the aging homes nearby: It includes an in-ground pool, a handsome brick driveway, meticulously manicured shrubs and oversize windows.
Whereas politicians get paid like shit, Dancing With the Stars contestants rake in cash. The contract between ABC and Bindi Irwin—daughter of deceased wildlife man Steve, and winner of season 21—was revealed in court proceedings last year. Bindi received $125,000 just for showing up, plus bonuses for advancing in the contest. By making it all the way to the finale she ended up making over $350,000.
If to get rich off Dancing With the Stars you have to be good at it, then Rubio would seem to have some strong advantages. He is pretty young and more or less in shape. He was a high school football player, so he’s at least relatively athletic (and former football players have traditionally been formidable Dancing With the Stars contestants). He is married to an ex-Miami Dolphins cheerleader, so he could practice at home. He is an avowed fan of EDM and Nicki Minaj, and has previously defended the “party music” of hometown comrade Pitbull. One figures it wouldn’t be Rubio’s first time on the dancefloor.
He could, of course, flutter gracefully back into lobbying, where he would immediately be rewarded with millions of dollars. But in doing so, Rubio would be tacitly admitting that he could never become president. The move from elected office to lobbying is often called the revolving door, but in truth hardly anyone ever walks back out. Rubio might hate politics, but he is clearly ambitious, and obviously wants to become president.
If his goal is to fatten his bank account and then—like John McCain and Mitt Romney before him—mount an ultimately successful second bid for the Republican nomination, Rubio can’t completely disappear from the public eye for three years. Dancing With the Stars offers him the chance to quickly make hundreds of thousands of dollars while also winning the hearts of middle America with his fleet feet and charming smile. If America has done anything in this primary season, it’s signal loudly and clearly that we are willing to seriously consider electing a reality television star as president.
But in the meantime, Rubio can’t ruin his chances of accruing that goodwill. He can’t drag his candidacy out and become a nuisance to the American public. He can’t attempt a hostile takeover of the nomination at the Republican convention and become a villain. He needs to express his disgust with what Donald Trump is doing to American politics and bow out before he gets associated with a presidential election that may go down as the most embarrassing in this country’s history.
Marco Rubio can’t help the fact that he will exit the current election cycle a loser, one characterized by his bullying opponent as a feeble lightweight unable to shine when it really matters. But he can enter the next cycle—where, once again, there appears to be no clear Republican frontrunner—as a winner. A winner of Dancing With the Stars, sure, but redemption stories gotta start somewhere.