The fact that Mr. Trump’s defeat was not the blowout critics had hoped, Mr. Rubio said, means that the anticipated repudiation of Trumpian politics was wrong. “Trump was going to get wiped out, the G.O.P. was going to get wiped out,” he said, running through often-repeated predictions. “Meanwhile, Republicans are going to probably hold the Senate and make up to a 10-seat gain in the House.”
While Mr. Rubio said he could not imagine a scenario in which Mr. Trump was not in the picture — “He’s not going to just vanish into a building” — the president’s strong support among Latino voters in Florida (47 percent) and Texas (40 percent) showed how the party could expand a “multiethnic, working-class coalition” that did not fit neatly inside the left-right paradigm.
“I think that a lot of people just don’t realize that when it comes to identity,” Mr. Rubio said, “the identity tied to your employment, your culture, you standard of living, your values, is much more powerful than the pronunciation of your last name.”
Navigating the unavoidable, disruptive force that is Mr. Trump complicates an already difficult job for conservatives like Mr. Rubio, 49. First, Republicans need to convince more voters of color that they are welcoming, despite embracing Mr. Trump and his divisive message. “If someone expresses hatred or disdain for people like you, it’s going to make it hard for them to vote for you,” Mr. Rubio said.
They also need to demonstrate that Republicans can be the party for Americans who are struggling economically — many of whom were won over by Mr. Trump’s message — not just the party that cuts taxes for corporations and dismantles government regulations.
A “pro-worker” Republican Party, as described by the likes of Senator Josh Hawley, 40, of Missouri, would require a sea change in the way its members tend to balk at spending when there is a Democratic president.
Mr. Hawley, like Mr. Rubio, has been vocal about the need to pass a second coronavirus relief package, breaking with Republicans who have expressed concerns about growing deficits. Some conservatives have proposed less conventional ways of appealing to the party’s core constituencies, including social conservatives, by embracing ideas typically associated with Democrats, like paid family leave.