Monday, February 08, 2016

the Rubio/Trump flameout

Marco Rubio, according to this article, "crash[ed] and burn[ed]" during the most recent GOP debate. It was Chris Christie, the portly governor of New Jersey and no slouch as a debater, who went after Rubio with guns blazing. Rubio has had to fight a reputation for being wooden and unspontaneous. During the debate, he failed miserably at dispelling that impression.

A malfunctioning Marco Rubio crashed as he was overloaded by attacks last night from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who tried to portray the Florida U.S. senator as a Washington robot pre-programmed by political consultants during a high-stakes Republican debate.

“See, Marco — Marco — the thing is this,” Christie said, “when you’re president of the United States … the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person.”

Rubio’s glitchy debate performance could be a game-changer just as independents make up their minds two days before the crucial first-in-the-nation primary. The first-term senator’s rivals have raised concerns he’s too inexperienced — just like, they say, President Obama was — and isn’t ready for prime time.

Four different times — often word-for-word and at awkward non-sequiturs — Rubio claimed Obama intentionally wants to make America like the rest of the world.

“Here’s the bottom line. This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” said Rubio, repeating the line for a third time in a matter of minutes.

“There it is. There it is,” pounced Christie. “The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

My own impression is that Marco Rubio's heart is in the right place, but as the critics say, he lacks deep experience and is little more than a good-looking talking head. His flip-flopping on immigration has made him some important enemies among his fellow debaters, and he's done little to shake the notion that he is a tool of the Republican establishment. (The term "GOPe" has become prominent online. It can mean either "the GOP establishment" or "the GOP elite." Either way, the term is used by grass-roots Republicans who resent the richer, more privileged, out-of-touch wing of their party.)

Donald Trump was the other casualty at the recent debate, and he arguably got it worse than Rubio: he was loudly booed at least twice by the audience. The first time was during a heated exchange with Jeb Bush about eminent domain (when the government seizes private property for public use, compensating the property owner). Trump, who has been loudly and rudely dismissive of Jeb Bush up to now, actually said "Quiet!" to Bush at one point, and this is what prompted the booing. A few minutes earlier, Trump had been interrupting Bush while Bush was trying to make a point. When Bush began interrupting Trump, using Trump's own tactic, Trump's "Quiet!" sounded petty and hypocritical.

Trump's second booing incident occurred shortly thereafter, when the business magnate cracked that the folks expressing disapproval were all of Bush's "donors and special interests." Trump claimed not to be liked because he was using his own money and wasn't beholden to anyone. More booing. There may have also been some booing during Trump's closing statement when he accused Ted Cruz of having cheated in Iowa (a 180 from his surprisingly gracious concession to Cruz earlier).

Rubio will eventually be seen for the substance-free candidate he is. If the world is just, Trump will, too. Ted Cruz is probably the winner of the New Hampshire debate; most of the candidates were focused on taking down Rubio, and Trump essentially tripped over his own dick. But Cruz isn't a winner in any positive sense: he just happened to escape that crossfire more or less unscathed.

Stephen Green, the rightie PJ Media commentator who was "drunkblogging" the debate (as is his tradition), expressed displeasure with the moderators' questions, many of which had nothing to do with any substantive issues. This seems to be a recurrent theme in the GOP debates: little of real substance gets debated, partly because the leftie moderators prefer to concentrate on topics that are of no interest to conservative viewers.

Trump still seems to be polling high in New Hampshire, but we'll know more after the primary. He shot himself in the foot during this last debate, and so did Rubio. Cruz might have an advantage right now, or maybe he doesn't. It's anybody's game. I'll also be curious to see what happens between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I expect Bernie to stomp Hillary pretty thoroughly in New Hampshire, but that landscape is going to change come Super Tuesday, when many primaries and caucuses happen at the same time.


1 comment:

Charles said...

I didn't watch the debate, but I wonder how much the performance will really affect the outcome in NH. Debates have seemed to mean very little so far--at least, the media response to debates has mattered little (the media was convinced that Trump had dealt a masterful blow by skipping the final Iowa debate, for example).

I still think NH is the key for Rubio. He's already got the big mo' from Iowa (he picked up a bunch of endorsements after his third place "victory"), and if he has a strong showing in NH as well we could see him coalesce establishment support. If he underperforms in NH, though, he could fizzle quickly. We'll see. Should give us plenty to chat about over pulled pork on Wednesday.

Anyway, glad to hear Trump got some big boos. Trump is such a narcissist that being exposed to people who don't like him is only going to make him even more obnoxious. It will (hopefully) be a downward spiral ending in an epic flameout. That would be awesome.