Ted Cruz described Marco Rubio last week as “Donald Trump with a smile,” saying that both are quick to call their critics liars, though Rubio does it amiably.
Cruz is right about Rubio’s affect, wrong about which candidate it distinguishes him from. He and Rubio are the pair twinned in so many respects beyond the curve of their lips.
That makes these two U.S. senators — both in their first terms, both Cuban-American, both lawyers, just five months apart in age — a uniquely fascinating study in how much the style of a person’s politics drives perceptions of who he is and in how thoroughly optics eclipse substance.
Rubio, 44, is routinely branded “mainstream” and occasionally labeled “moderate.” There’s a belief among Republican leaders, along with evidence in polls, that he has an appeal to less conservative voters that Cruz doesn’t.