As the Washington Post reports, an awful debate performance by GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio this weekend has thrown his campaign into a tailspin at the worst possible moment:
Just two days before the New Hampshire primary, Rubio drew mockery for repeating a rehearsed line four times during the Republican candidates’ debate, even after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had ridiculed him for being a talking-point machine.
Rubio received scathing reviews on the Sunday talk shows and was needled by some of his opponents. On Twitter, he earned the moniker “Rubio bot.” Clips of the debate played repeatedly on cable news and were watched hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.
The episode interrupted Rubio’s week-long effort to build on his impressive third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses and consolidate donors and party officials behind him. It also appeared to give new life to the struggling candidacies of Christie, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, while improving Donald Trump’s chances of winning the New Hampshire Republican primary.
After Rubio’s disappointing third place finish in the Iowa caucuses, spin doctors allied with his campaign went to absurd lengths to characterize the result as a “victory”–spin that fell embarrassingly flat in the days following, but revealed just how desperate the GOP insider establishment is for a alternative to Donald Trump, and to a lesser extent Sen. Ted Cruz. But after this weekend’s debate, Rubio’s shine has dulled considerably:
“The whole race changed last night,” Christie said Sunday on CNN. “There was a march amongst some in the chattering class to anoint Senator Rubio. I think after last night, that’s over. I think there could be four or five tickets now out of New Hampshire because the race is so unsettled now.”
…Trump has held a dominant lead in the polls in New Hampshire for months. There was a growing sense on the ground in recent days that Rubio might surf a wave of buzz and goodwill to contend for the top spot, but party strategists said the debate probably closed whatever opening may have existed. [Pols emphasis]
Rubio’s robotic verbatim answers about the motives of President Barack Obama recalled a similar on-camera disaster for Rubio backer Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, as Democrats were quick to mashup for posterity after the debate:
But for Coloradans, the worst moment in Rubio’s rough debate Saturday could well be his flip-flop on–yes, that’s right–the Denver Broncos:
We’re pretty sure Rubio’s Colorado backers are still cringing from that one.
Bottom line: we won’t know the full effect of Rubio’s poor debate performance until polls in New Hampshire close tomorrow night, but the timing couldn’t be worse for his campaign. Without a powerful comeback story in New Hampshire, all the insider spin in the world can’t spin Rubio past the two candidates who beat him in Iowa. And sounding like an amateur talking point machine in Saturday’s debate feeds the criticism that hurts Rubio most: that he is an inexperienced and shallow candidate, completely unprepared to serve as President.
And the more Rubio talks, the more unprepared he looks.