In his long shot bid to defeat Marco Rubio, Republican Carlos Beruff has yet to ignite the type of political grass fire that two years ago took out a top Republican leader in the U.S. House and nearly claimed four U.S. senators.
Following the insurgent’s playbook, Beruff has spent more than $8 million of his own money on television ads. The wealthy land developer has leveled stinging criticism at Rubio on immigration issues. And in a year Donald Trump has stormed the establishment, Beruff has drawn comparisons between himself and the Republican presidential nominee.
Yet, nothing. Not even a spark.
What Beruff is attempting is a rare feat. Since 1970, 632 U.S. senators have sought re-election and just 20 have been defeated in a primary.
Yet while 2014 proved incumbents aren’t always safe, Beruff is missing five key ingredients from that year that were crucial in turning Republican Senate races in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas and Kentucky into knock-down drag out brawls.
1. Street Cred
Although Beruff fancies himself an anti-establishment kind of guy, he’s lacked ties with grassroots activists who championed other challengers like Republican Chris McDaniel in Mississippi, who nearly took out 36-year incumbent Thad Cochran.
Unlike Beruff, McDaniel had deeper roots with influential tea party groups that were quick to help his campaign. Before taking on Cochran, McDaniel hosted a regional talk show, attended some of the earliest tea party rallies, and publicly took on then-Gov. Haley Barbour, a fixture in that state’s Republican circles, on big policy issues.
“He just has no street cred with those types of groups,” said Ford O’Connell, a national Republican strategist who lives in Naples.