Unlike last month's contentious GOP debate on CNBC, the event staged by Fox Business Network and The Wall Street Journal was thankfully less about the moderators and more about the candidates. It was about content, not about which moderator could ask the best "gotcha" question.
We are moving beyond the "who won" stage in these Republican debates into the "who would you be most comfortable with as president" and "who is best equipped to defeat Hillary Clinton?" The answer to both questions seems to be Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Florida Republican reminds me of John F. Kennedy's line in his 1961 Inaugural Address: "The torch has been passed to a new generation." JFK was 43 when he became president. Rubio would be 46. Beyond the age factor, Hillary Clinton represents not only the past, but a failed present. She has no meaningful accomplishments and no vision for the future.
As the cyber columnist Rich Galen wrote on his "Mullings" blog: "(Rubio) was either the smoothest politician on the stage, the best rehearsed, or both. He is comfortable on foreign policy, economic policy and fiscal policy. Best answer was on ISIS in a back and forth with Rand Paul. ‘Either they win or we win,' Rubio said. ‘We better take this risk seriously; it is not going away on its own.'"
There was another answer that was Kennedy-esque. It came in response to a question by moderator Maria Bartiromo. She said that Hillary Clinton has more experience than almost all of the Republicans running for president, as if a resume equals accomplishments, of which Clinton has few to none. Bartiromo phrased her question this way: "Why should the American people trust you to lead this country even though she has been so much closer to the office?"
Rubio treated the question like a home run slugger seeing a fastball over the plate.
First the vision: "This election is about the future and what kind of country this will be in the 21st century." He called it a "generational choice," contrasting Clinton's age (she would be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017) with his own energetic youth.
Next came the diagnosis of where he thinks we are: "A growing number of Americans feel out of place in their own country - a society that stigmatizes those who hold cultural values that are traditional."
He lamented the number of people who live "paycheck to paycheck," because "the economy has changed under their feet." Students with crushing student loans, he said, are graduating from college with "a degree that doesn't lead to a job." He added, "For the first time in 35 years, we have more businesses dying than we do starting."
Rubio then flashed a dagger he will clearly use against Clinton and her "experience" when he said, "Around the world every day brings news of a new humiliation for America, many the direct consequence of decisions made when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state."
Rubio then indicted not only Clinton, but her party: "The Democratic Party and the entire political left has no ideas about the future. All their ideas are the same tired ideas of the past: more government, more spending. ... If I am the nominee, they will be the party of the past; we will be the party of the 21st century."
In an opinion piece for CNN.com, former White House communications adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote: "There is no question that Rubio is the Republican that Democrats fear most."
After Rubio's four debate performances, and especially the one Tuesday night, they should.