The Marco Rubio 'TIME' Cover Story Sure Seems Awfully Ironic Now

After a substantial loss in his home state of Florida, Marco Rubio has officially suspended his campaign. His dismal debate performances, the poorly-attended rallies on his home turf, and a message that simply never seemed to gain traction foretold the inevitable. And yet three years ago, establishment Republicans and the politically savvy were all hailing the Florida senator as the savior of the party. It was enough to prompt a massive spread in one of the most prominent magazines in the country. Marco Rubio's TIME cover story seems ironic in light of his failed campaign. The tale of a politician's rise from humble beginnings to the face of the GOP — or at least, the way the GOP saw itself — highlights a major rift between how citizens are voting compared to what the party expected.

Rubio's tale of being a bright young face and potential future of the Republican Party is the slow-burn equivalent to what happened with another prominent minority conservative. Former presidential candidate Bobby Jindal's fast implosion in the 2016 primary election was marked by the former Louisiana governor's negligence of his home state, compounded by an overly crowded field that simply never allowed him the room to shine. If Jindal was too little too late in seeking the presidential nomination, then Rubio was on a Sunday drive past his prime. The candidate's focus on the highest office in the land culminated in a similar negligence of his duties, as he was among the top three senators missing votes.

TIME's portrait of the candidate proves to be a time capsule of the Republican Party that certainly couldn't have predicted his absenteeism in the senate. Likewise, outsider candidates like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson certainly weren't on the minds of the GOP. They most definitely weren't predicting the aggressive campaigning of now-frontrunner Donald Trump, either. So what did the glory days of Rubio's political career look like? TIME offered a compelling look at a politician walking the fine line of taking a conservative stance on immigration yet seeking to alleviate the concerns of the very voters he may be alienating.

It was Rubio who was picked to deliver the 2013 State of the Union response, which TIME cited as a pivotal moment for a party looking to reinvent itself among Latino voters. Rubio's remarks were delivered in both English and Spanish, showcasing his roots while also pointing to a prominent voting demographic that Republicans were clamoring to garner favor with.

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Now, three years later, Rubio's focus has sharply shifted toward the GOP frontrunner, whom Republicans are desperate to prevent from securing their presidential nomination. Rubio's campaign may be over, but his political hopes and dreams are far from done with. He will continue to serve as a Florida senator while continuing to fight for the good of the Republican Party. It's a far cry from the high hopes placed upon him three years ago, but Rubio's efforts may be one of the only ways to ensure the longevity of the Republican Party as conservatives hope it will stay.