The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Rubio Surge in Iowa — Is a Viral Video the Reason?

It looks like Marco Rubio is making his move in Iowa. After a series of polls earlier in the month showing him stuck in a very distant third place, the last two have him closing the gap with Ted Cruz — from solid double digits to seven points. Here’s the latest, from the Wall Street Journal:

Why the late move? Yes, part of it reflects deliberate strategy, but part of it rests on something that the mainstream media largely missed – a viral video. When I posted last week on Rubio’s remarkable and heartfelt response to an atheist questioner, I called the encounter a “profound moment.” I had no idea how profound. The video has since been viewed or shared in its various online forms millions of times (the campaign claims 6 million views), and it has rocketed through the evangelical world. Applying my own, admittedly unscientific, test of when politics penetrates culture — do my apolitical friends and neighbors bring it up? — the video was a home run. People who rarely talk politics have said that Rubio said everything they wish they could say. It was a not just a defense of faith, but a declaration that the Christian faith champions the virtues vital to our nation. For those who missed the video, here it is again:

Yesterday, the Washington Post belatedly realized the significance of the moment, running a piece called “How the mainstream media missed the boat on Marco Rubio vs. an atheist.” Moreover, I’m hearing from knowledgeable sources in Iowa that Rubio’s momentum seems real. As a friend told me yesterday, “Look for Rubio to over-perform his polling Monday night.”

We shall see. There is a profound difference between a strong third and a weak third (assuming his polling placement holds), and a move up to second would have a seismic impact on the race. Campaign narratives built around polls are easily destroyed by narratives built around actual results. If Tuesday’s headlines are about Rubio, he may well have an atheist to thank for his success.

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