February 8, 2016


Pop Goes the Marco Bubble (SCOTT MCCONNELL, February 8, 2016, American Conservative)

Those most familiar with Rubio may have thought him an appealing politician, but pointed to problems. Some noted that the nicely crafted answers he delivered to various questions were always scripted or that he avoided spontaneous exchanges with the press. Then there was the undeniable fact that he had few legislative accomplishments in the Senate, and, remarkably, his campaign couldn't even manage to put a positive gloss on the record. He hadn't really led anything, ever. But snarky descriptions by New York Times columnist Gail Collins ("a computer algorithm designed to cover talking points") or Chris Christie ("boy in the bubble") or (at a considerably less influential level) myself  ("Chatty Cathy") were hardly going to stop the GOP rush to anointing Rubio.

Jeb Bush's mordant ads quoting Rubio endorser Rick Santorum saying that Rubio had "no accomplishments" in the Senate might slow things a bit, but nothing Jeb has done in this election cycle has really succeeded. And if Rubio, buoyed by a surge of positive press and rising in the national polls after Iowa, finished a strong second in New Hampshire, the "party would decide" and not that much would stand in the way of a Rubio presidency. To be precise, Ted Cruz and three others, each pushing, or surpassing, 70 years of age: Trump, Clinton and Sanders, all who have their strengths, but also obvious weaknesses--against a well-funded, very polished, Gen-X candidate.

No one thinks that Chris Christie aided his own chances by attacking Rubio. But there are other things in politics besides winning. Rubio's super PAC had been slamming Christie on the New Hampshire airwaves since last fall, making mountains out of molehills (Christie's "support" of a Senate vote to confirm or reject Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor). Plus, they are human. How do you think Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor and two-term governor who can talk administrative nuts and bolts till the cows come home and mesmerize a room with off-the-cuff digressions, feels about getting swamped by someone with no record to speak of, whose every campaign utterance seems to have been written by someone else, focus-grouped, and memorized before delivery?

So Christie was going to try to lower the boom on Saturday night. He has been talking all week about the "boy in the bubble." No one knew if he would have an opportunity. And everyone also assumed Rubio would be prepared. Yet as Christie put it in a Sunday afternoon town hall, quoting former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, "everyone is prepared until you get a punch in the mouth."

I don't think there is any observer of the race who expected Rubio to collapse as quickly as he did. He tried to retort to Christie with jibes at his New Jersey record, but Christie had it covered. Then Rubio reached for his Obama script trying to tap into the contradictory Republican trope: Obama is a lightweight with no accomplishments (the same charge sometimes leveled at Rubio); Obama is the malevolent semi-dictator who knows exactly what he is doing in a scheme to despoil America. He said it not once, but four times. Four. People were shocked. Chris Matthews wondered, during the post-debate interviews, whether Rubio was exhibiting symptoms of some sort of brain damage, and in one of the more hilarious moments of the election cycle, asked brain surgeon Ben Carson for his evaluation. The Twitter storm, indicative of what Rubio will endure so long as he remains the race, was both hysterical and brutal.

Posted by at February 8, 2016 8:56 PM