February 7, 2016


Rubio chokes : The Florida senator went into Saturday night's GOP debate with momentum. He ended it as a viral glitch sensation. (SHANE GOLDMACHER 02/06/16, Politico)

Marco Rubio knew exactly what he was doing on Saturday night.

Marco Rubio knew exactly what he was doing on Saturday night.

Marco Rubio knew exactly what he was doing on Saturday night.

The problem was he flubbed it.

Rubio awkwardly pivoted four times to a well-rehearsed line that President Barack Obama "knows exactly what he's doing" as he tried to drill home the idea that he's the inevitable general election candidate - an unforced error that his rivals pounced on and that quickly went viral.

"There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody," Chris Christie charged.

It was a defining moment as Rubio's opponents successfully turned two of his greatest strengths -- his eloquence and message discipline -- against him in the final debate before the New Hampshire primary, casting the Florida senator as a lightweight leader who has been lifted by little more than lofty and canned rhetoric.

We Thought Marco Rubio Lost The Debate, But New Hampshire Might Think Differently (NATE SILVER, 2/07/16, 538)

Rubio, who received a C- in our anonymous staff grading,1 came into the night with a lot on the line. He began the evening at 16 percent in our New Hampshire polling average, with Trump at 30 percent. Believe it or not, that 14-point gap is not too much to overcome in New Hampshire; in the past, there have been last-minute swings and election-day polling misfires of about that magnitude in the state. By the same token, however, Rubio's second-place position in the polls is not at all safe. Kasich and Cruz, both at 12 percent, and Bush, at 9 percent, could easily catch him; perhaps even Christie at 5 percent could also with a really strong finish.

Chris Christie A- A B+
Jeb Bush B+ A- B
John Kasich B A- C
Donald Trump C+ B C-
Ted Cruz C+ B C-
Marco Rubio C- B D
Ben Carson C- B- F

Rubio's debate is likely to be remembered for his repeating the same line about President Obama almost verbatim four times (example: "Let's dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing; he knows exactly what he's doing"). Three of them came in an exchange with Christie, and two of them after Christie had already mocked Rubio for repeating the same soundbyte answers. It was an embarrassing moment for Rubio, particularly given that the line of questioning that started the exchange was about his lack of accomplishments in office, a critique Rubio should have been better prepared for. He was not only repetitive but also nonresponsive.

Marco Rubio Was a Disaster (Jamelle Bouie, 2/07/16, Slate)

[H]e's faced a repeated attack in his six years on the national stage--that his smooth charisma conceals a man of little substance. That, on a fundamental level, he's not ready for the Oval Office. And on Saturday night, Rubio gave substance to the charge in a remarkable exchange with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the eighth Republican presidential debate.

It began with a question. The moderators asked Rubio to list accomplishments in his record that have prepared him for the presidency. Rubio cited work on foreign policy and issues such as veterans affairs before moving to well-worn rhetoric meant to counter these experience questions by tweaking a popular conservative notion about Barack Obama. "Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing," he said. "He knows exactly what he's doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world." And in this implicit analogy, Rubio is the Republican Barack Obama who will make a "systematic effort" to make America unique again. "When I'm president of the United States," he continued, "we are going to re-embrace all the things that made America the greatest nation in the world, and we are going to leave our children with what they deserve: the single greatest nation in the history of the world."

It's a good line, designed for applause. But this time, Rubio had pushback, in the form of Christie.

Behind in national polls and struggling for air in a crowded field, Christie has focused on his experience--as an executive--to make the case to New Hampshire voters and Republicans nationwide. And against Rubio's disdain for experience, he scoffed. "You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable," Christie said. "You just simply haven't. And the fact is--when you talk about the Hezbollah sanctions act that you list as one of your accomplishments, you weren't even there to vote for it. That's not leadership. That's truancy." He finished with a swipe. "I like Marco Rubio, and he's a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States."

The most damaging mistakes in politics are the ones that confirm your opponents' narratives.

Posted by at February 7, 2016 7:26 AM