I was in and out, catching parts of last night’s Republican debate. I missed what the media are assuring me today is the end of Marco Rubio’s campaign: when Chris Christie called him out for repeating the same canned talking points over and over and Rubio responded by … repeating his talking points.
Strictly on points, that was a big deal. Christie has been making this point for a while — and it’s a good one — that he (and Kasich and Bush) have a lot more experience in getting things done while Rubio (and Cruz) are mostly good at making speeches. Rubio does tend to fall back on canned speeches and his record of accomplishment is thin. He isn’t very good at improvising, something that has hurt him in direct interactions with voters and party stalwarts.
This really crosses me as inside-the-beltway media stuff. I really don’t think the voting public is going to care very much whether Rubio is repeating himself. If this were debate club, Christie would have won, but it’s not. Repeating talking points is part of politics (Christie should know, as he never forgets to remind us that he was appointed as a federal prosecutor after 9/11). And Rubio gave an answer on abortion — talking about the rights of the woman the rights of the fetus being in contention — that was off the charts with conservatives in my Twitter feed. I disagree with Rubio on abortion, but his answer, pre-packaged or not, really resonated with GOP base. That’s what they’ll remember.
The other highlight was Jeb Bush finally landing a punch on Donald Trump. Bush hit the Donald hard on Trump’s abuse of eminent domain and the Donald had no answer, eventually turning on the audience as they booed him. I think the second place finish in Iowa and the leveling of the polls is getting to Trump. He’s still leading in New Hampshire, but if he loses, we could see an epic meltdown.
Overall, I think this is still a three-man race, with Christie as a possible dark horse should the leaders falter. I expect Trump to win New Hampshire. But the race is anyone’s to win right now.