Once you get past the fundamental qualifications of basic honesty and credibility, there are three ingredients, it seems to me, that make for a successful conservative leader.
The first (this should be obvious) is a solid conservative political philosophy. The second is charisma (like it or not, Americans prefer charismatic candidates, and it has become mandatory for the modern era).
Last (and perhaps most elusive) is the ability to effectively articulate
a conservative message. This is not to say candidates must be pointy-headed intellectuals, but a leader must be able to persuasively present a serious argument for their ideas.
To be sure, there are many leaders and candidates out there who bring two of these qualities to the table, but very few can pull off the hat trick.
Marco Rubio's election Tuesday is vital because he is one of the few conservative leaders on the horizon who combines all three
qualities. He could be president
some day. That's why Democrats were so desperate to get Kendrick Meek out of the race and try to help Gov. Charlie Crist's independent bid. Rubio's election is about far more than just electing a Republican senator.
Rubio, of course, is a bona fide conservative (long before Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle appeared on the scene, Sen. Jim DeMint backed Rubio
) who is also highly charismatic, smart and eloquent. What is more, he can communicate a terrific personal story that buttresses the argument for why conservative policies can provide the most opportunities for all Americans.
There are many important elections taking place on Tuesday (to be sure, many would argue that the chance to defeat Majority Leader Harry Reid makes Nevada the obvious marquee race). But for my money, if you're looking for one contest that matters most to conservatives -- that could have long-term implications -- it's in Florida, where voters elected a man with the potential to be a serious national player for years to come.
Marco Rubio could be a game-changer.