Political speeches can seem fresh for only so long. After a while, the mind turns to the candidates’ quirks.
Here in New Hampshire, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are engaged in a fierce fight to become the chief opponent to businessman Donald Trump — or, if Trump’s campaign further falters, to take over the number one slot.
Their appeals are quite similar. Cruz, a college debater, tends to tick off the things he would do in order of their placement in the U.S. Constitution. (First, religious freedom, then guns, and so on.)
Rubio speaks conversationally, if with far more vehemence and aggressiveness than a typical conversation would entail.
They both vow to repeal President Obama’s healthcare plan immediately, build a wall along the Mexican border and save the next generation of children from becoming the first generation of children not to be better off than their parents.
(That last one is a revered political line, which Bill Clinton employed in every speech he made during his successful run in 1992. And he may well have swiped it from someone else.)
But there is one distinct difference between the two senators: the word employed at the beginning of the sentences in which they make their promises.
“If I am elected president, every criminal illegal alien will be deported,” Cruz thundered Wednesday during an appearance in Henniker.
No ifs for Rubio.
“When I’m president, we’re banning ‘Marco Polo,'” he said Tuesday night in Exeter, laughing at the torment the childhood game caused him.
More seriously, “When I am president, we are not hiring 20,000 new IRS agents; we’ll hire 20,000 new border agents instead.”
For Rubio, who looks younger than his 44 years, the usage may serve as a way to cast his success as inevitable in the minds of any skeptical voters. He does argue insistently that he would be the candidate best equipped to defeat the Democratic nominee.
But it can also come off as a bit presumptuous. Cruz’s language — if — conjures the air of possibility, if only voters will see the light. Which is, of course, what every candidate hopes.