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Marco Rubio's allies compared him to Harry Potter — and got the books totally wrong

"The Boy Who Placed Third In Iowa, Fifth In New Hampshire, and Second in South Carolina" does not have quite the same ring as "The Boy Who Lived."
"The Boy Who Placed Third In Iowa, Fifth In New Hampshire, and Second in South Carolina" does not have quite the same ring as "The Boy Who Lived."
Getty images, Warner Bros./photo illustration Javier Zarracina, Vox
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Marco Rubio's backers have bestowed the ultimate compliment on their candidate: comparing him to Harry Potter, with Donald Trump as the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.

Politico uncovered a fundraising email from the Super PAC supporting Rubio that makes the comparison at length. The authors of the email compare Rubio's path to the nomination — which they say must end in a one-on-one battle with Trump — to Harry Potter's preparation to battle Voldemort:

In Harry Potter lore, Voldemort, the Dark Lord, had a secret to his strength. His secret was his horcruxes. As each horcrux was destroyed, Voldemort became increasingly vulnerable, not increasingly strong. When all of the horcruxes were gone, Voldemort lost his one-on-one battle with Harry Potter… Like Voldemort's horcruxes, the large candidate field shields Trump from harm. At each step of the primary process, Trump is losing his shields, and that is making him more vulnerable.

This is easily the most entertaining way so far of rewording the "lane theory" — the idea that support for an establishment-friendly Republican candidate (Rubio) will consolidate as other competitors for those votes (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie) drop out.

But if you happen to know more about Harry Potter than about pundits' theories of how the primaries will unfold, it becomes clear how deeply, hilariously bizarre the Rubio simile is.

As far as we know, Ted Cruz is not harboring any of Donald Trump's soul

GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Rally In Atlanta, Georgia
Also, Gilderoy Lockhart — famous hair, very fond of bragging, would definitely be sure to note his position in the polls at every rally — seems like he might be a better analogue than Voldemort.
Branden Camp/Getty Images

For many reasons, the climactic battle between good and evil at a fictional wizarding school is a poor analogy for the 2016 presidential race. That said, an important correction is in order: The email's authors don't seem to understand how horcruxes work. While it's true Rubio needs to defeat Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Dr. Ben Carson — whom the email accused of being horcruxes — to get the nomination, it is extremely unlikely that Trump has actually embedded pieces of his soul in their bodies.

A horcrux, in the Harry Potter books, was a piece of Voldemort's soul squirreled away in a magical object (in most cases). By splitting his soul, Voldemort was able to survive otherwise lethal attacks from his enemies.

So his horcruxes were not just random things around him that happened to serve as shields until the dark wizard's luck ran out, which is the only way at all that Rubio's backers could be drawing a reasonable comparison.

Nor were the horcruxes merely super-strong defenses. Even if they were, this would only really make sense if Trump were funding the campaigns of Kasich, Carson, and Ted Cruz in order to ensure that the anti-Trump votes remained spread out.

No, Rubio's Super PAC is unwittingly implying that Trump split his soul into four parts (which the Harry Potter books specify can only be done by killing another human being), and that Kasich, Cruz, and Carson are all playing hosts to the pieces.

The good news for Rubio is that horcruxes lodged in living creatures can be destroyed by killing the host, so he'd merely have to murder his rivals instead of seeking out a basilisk or the sword of Gryffindor to destroy them — all before Trump's lead in the delegate count becomes bulletproof.

This introduces an exciting new line of questioning for the next debate

Marco Rubio Holds Rallies Across South Carolina Ahead Of Primary
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
  1. A person with a slice of Voldemort's soul inside him could speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes, because Voldemort had this ability. Sen. Cruz, are you concerned you will begin describing things as "yuge" and "tremendous"?
  2. Dr. Carson, is it true that in addition to being a horcrux, you've been under a Confundus Charm this entire time?
  3. Sen. Rubio, if Voldemort wanted to register all Muslims, do you think Harry Potter would have responded that anti-Muslim discrimination is no more serious than fans of different sports teams disagreeing?
  4. Who was the last person to defeat Jeb Bush at a debate, and thus the true possessor of the Elder Wand?
  5. Sen. Rubio, are you aware that Harry was (spoiler alert) a horcrux? Have you considered the possibility that you yourself are the final horcrux, the one Trump never meant to make?
  6. Would that mean you would have to sacrifice yourself to defeat Trump, akin to losing the primary to win the general?
  7. And didn't Jeb Bush already try that?

There's a bigger problem with the "lane theory" than a bad analogy

Even if the horcrux analogy worked, there's a bigger problem here: There's very little evidence that as the establishment candidates, or horcruxes, or whatever you want to call them, drop out, their support will adhere to Rubio.

Rubio is probably many people's second choice. But we don't know yet if he's everybody's second choice. It's easy to imagine voters who like Ted Cruz's pugnacity, for example, gravitating toward Trump if Cruz drops out.

Of course, Rubio's supporters were just trying to inject some levity into the fundraising grind — and who can blame them? By now, comparisons of Trump and Voldemort are practically routine. Megyn Kelly referred to Trump as "He Who Must Not Be Named" in January.

The comparison in Rubio's backers' email isn't even original:

J.K. Rowling, for what it's worth, argued after Trump's call to ban Muslims that he was actually worse than Voldemort. So far, she hasn't weighed in on where Trump's horcruxes might be.

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