Rubio, Rubio, wherefore art thou, Rubio?

“I’m not a scientist, man.” It only took Marco Rubio five quick words to fence around the GOP’s path out of the wilderness, and toward electability. Pretending to believe in creationism apparently still the way to go.

Rubio, the Florida senator, is one of the few bright lights in a Republican Party that’s currently focused on tearing Mitt Romney to pieces. Rubio got short-listed for the vice presidential nomination this time around. As a consolation prize for losing to Rep. Paul Ryan in the veepstakes, Rubio took a star turn at the Republican National Convention. While most GOP operatives are still licking their wounds, Rubio is jetting to Iowa already.

This is a man on the move. When Rubio speaks, he’s not just killing time. Every utterance is a bid at cobbling together a message for 2016 — a fact that makes his squirming answer to a question about creationism in an otherwise friendly GQ interview significant.

Asked how old the earth is, Rubio answers: “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

The magazine follows up with a question about whether Republicans should “stop putting these social issues out there,” and instead adopt a socially libertarian and fiscally conservative stance. “I think that’s unfair,” Rubio replies. “A significant percentage of Americans feel very strongly about this issue. What I’m hearing is that it’s ok for one side to express their view and the other side needs to be quiet. There are a very significant number of Americans that feel very strongly about the issue of life, about the issue of marriage and are we saying that they should be silenced or not allowed to speak or voice their opinion?”

The prevailing narrative after Romney’s loss to President Obama was that Republicans’ coalition of aging voters, white men, and social conservatives was dooming the party. Senate losses in Indiana and Missouri, in particular, showed the fading appeal of hard-right social candidates. The debate within Republican circles isn’t so much whether to remake the party’s face, but how drastically to do so. Right now, the Wall Street Journal editorial page is prodding the GOP to embrace immigration reform. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is talking about the need to “modernize our party.” Rush Limbaugh and Christian conservatives are admitting they’re outnumbered.  “It’s not that our message … didn’t get out,” a Southern Baptist college president told the Times after the election. It did get out. It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.” And Rubio? He’s still insisting that he’s not a scientist, that he’s unsure about radioactive decay and the half lives of atoms, and also counting. And, Iowa, he’s coming to pay you a visit.

                                                                                                  –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick calls the hiring of Sheila Burgess a “screw up,” State House News reports (via CommonWealth). A Globe editorial calls the appointment of the Democratic fundraiser — and serial driving-law offender — to run a state office overseeing driving safety a “shameful act of patronage.”  Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld says Patrick is “waist deep” in patronage. Lt.  Gov. Tim Murray, who has plenty on his plate already, denies any knowledge of the hire; Burgess’s sister had previously campaigned for Murray.

Former Lottery communications director Dan Rosenfeld testified in the trial of former state treasurer Tim Cahill that he vehemently opposed “permission” ads for the agency in 2010 because they would appear to be politically engineered to help Cahill’s dying independent bid for governor. But Rosenfeld, a one-time newspaperman, said he amped up his defense of the ads to keep reporters from making the connection.

Peter Lucas, in his Lowell Sun column, raises the prospect of a run by US Rep. Ed Markey for governor.

Republicans on Beacon Hill vow to fight a bid by Gov. Deval Patrick to grant in-state tuition rates at public colleges to certain illegal immigrants, the Sun reports. In an editorial, the paper slams Patrick for sidestepping the Legislature; the Herald editorial page has a similar take. The Item interviews students and faculty at North Shore Community College about the new policy. WBUR talks to the president of Salem State University.

Inmates from the soon-to-be shuttered Middlesex jail in Cambridge will be relocated to Billerica. The state is selling the jail and courthouse complex for redevelopment.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In the next installment of the campaign to ensure that no campaigns to take his job get off the ground, Mayor Tom Menino’s minions cooperate for a Globe story assuring everyone the city is being run just fine — from Hizzoner’s hospital room. Here’s betting, however, that Public Health Commission chief Barbara Ferrer hears about her quote that the boss is “very alert” and “focused,” which then went way off-message by saying he’s also “definitely tired and sick.”

The Beverly City Council approves a hefty property tax break for developers who build on a stretch of Rantoul Street near the train station, the Salem News reports.

Swansea voters, tired of the never-ending problems with the town’s recreation commission ranging from free programs for board members’ children to its chairman being jailed in Pennsylvania for a probation violation, voted to kill the embattled panel.

A 64-year-old Cohasset town employee let go in a purge by the interim town manager says he was fired from his $108,000 a year job as operations manager because of his age and replaced by a cheaper, younger man.

Labor unions are taking a wage cut to jumpstart a stalled East Boston apartment project.

Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella wants an independent investigation into a $25,000 federal grant that went to a friend, even though the State Ethics Commission has already levied a $4,000 conflict of interest fine against the mayor in the matter.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Democrats debate their fiscal cliff negotiating stance on entitlement reform; the Center for American Progress gives liberals some cover, arguing that Congress could slice $385 billion from safety net programs without affecting beneficiaries.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page gripes about Esquire and the Atlantic showering praise on Chief Justice John Roberts.

The New York Times asks whether it can write an obit for Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

ELECTIONS

US Rep. Michael Capuano says he would seriously consider running for the US Senate if Sen. John Kerry moves into the Cabinet. Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nation’s and Kerry’s chief rival for Secretary of State, is the target of a misguided GOP crusade, Time says.

Attorney General Eric Holder now says he wouldn’t mind staying another year at the Justice Department, which may tamp down the Deval Patrick-as-the-next-attorney-general chatter.

Matt Katz, in The New Republic, says a 2013 New Jersey match-up for governor pitting incumbent Republican Chris Christie against Newark mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, would be “the bout of the year.” Christie yearns for “a GOP hug,” the New York Times reports. Since that whole “gifts for the 47 percent” thing didn’t work out, Mitt Romney is now blaming Christie for costing him the election; of course, they’re wrong, but Romney’s aides do have a serious blind spot for data and such.

Marijuana advocates won campaigns in Colorado and Washington by focusing on mothers and Hispanics.

CASINOS

South Coast legislators are moving to limit the advantage the new casino law gave to the Mashpee Wampanoag by setting a deadline for the tribe to get permits and develop plans for a resort casino.

EDUCATION

UMass Lowell and Raytheon Co. are exploring an educational partnership with a Kuwait university that would have Lowell faculty and administrators oversee degree programs in the Mideast nation to help diversify its economy, the Lowell Sun reports. UMass Lowell is also courting foreign students, particularly from China, to come to its campus, CommonWealth reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Incoming MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott calls for a major state investment in public transit but doesn’t rule out fare increases, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR).

Lynn garners seven spots on the state’s top 200 intersections crash list, the Item reports.

An engineering study commissioned by Weymouth officials found that one-third of the town’s 150 miles of roads are in disrepair and will get worse without a large and quick infusion of funds for maintenance.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The EPA gave approval to go ahead with the development of New Bedford’s proposed South Terminal, which officials expect will position the city to be a hub in the development of wind energy.

A Boston University study says there are 3,300 natural gas leaks in pipes running under the streets of Boston. Most of the leaks — but not all — are very small.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Peabody woman tearfully apologizes for her role in a liquor store robbery and receives a weekends-only jail sentence from a Salem Superior Court judge, the Salem News reports.

Massachusetts is moving more slowly than other states in coming into line with a Supreme Court ruling banning mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of murder.

MEDIA

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, two former top News Corp. officials, are expected to be charged in connection with a tabloid bribery probe, Bloomberg reports.