Thursday, October 29, 2015


I'm not sure I believe the political-insider wisdom that Marco Rubio was the big winner in last night's debate -- when I look at the coverage on conservative sites, I see much more praise being lavished on Ted Cruz. (Blog post cited at Free Republic: "Happy-Warrior Cruz CRUSHED It Last Night..."; post at the Right Scoop: "Ted Cruz OBLITERATES CNBC on their BIASED questions and gets HUGE applause for it!!")

But Rubio did quite well. He attacked the media in a way that drew applause from the conservatives in the debate audience, and he deployed sentiment and smarm in a way that really could work in general-election politics. I think Jonathan Last of The Weekly Standard has a point:
... what should scare Hillary Clinton is how effortless Rubio is even with throwaway lines, like “I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”
What has the chattering class talking, of course, is Rubio's counterattack on Jeb Bush, a guy the chatterers continue to believe has a chance to win this race -- or at least they believed that until last night. (I think Jeb lost the race long ago, but he retained the ability to gum up the works for an actually electable mainstream candidate -- probably Rubio. I don't think that's changed, because Jeb won't quit and he still has money.) You know the moment that got insiders' hearts racing:
Mr. Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. Mr. Bush ... blasted Mr. Rubio over his work ethic....

“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term -- you should be showing up to work,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean, literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?”

Mr. Rubio hit back forcefully, noting that Mr. Bush has said he is modeling his campaign after Senator John McCain’s in 2008, and that Mr. McCain missed many votes in the chamber during that run. And he attributed the criticism to the fact that Mr. Bush is struggling in the polls.

“The only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Mr. Rubio said.
Rubio got the better of this because he took the punch and hit back. But it occurs to me that maybe we've been looking at this story all wrong, and we still are. We saw Senate absenteeism as a vulnerability for Rubio, and now we see it as a vulnerability he's dealt with.

But what if it's an advantage for him that he's blowing off his Senate job and letting the country know that he loathes the Senate?

Think about who's been dominating the Republican race: two candidates who've never held office. Just being in government at all, in the present or the past, is regarded by Republican voters as a mark of shame, even for an insubordinate delinquent like Ted Cruz. It's a sign that you've had a chance to establish the Wingnut Utopia and you've failed. (That's what right-wingers actually believe.)

So when Rubio embraced his distaste for the Senate, maybe some GOP voters decided that he hates government as much as they do. Maybe this helps Rubio.

I can't tell. And with regard to the debates, I still don't understand how they work. I don't understand why Ben Carson and Donald Trump always seem to come out of them stronger, no matter how poorly they perform. I expect that to be true again. I expect Rubio and Cruz to get poll bumps, though I suspect they won't last any longer than the bump Carly Fiorina got from the last debate. But I really don't know.


The Ghost Blizzard said...


I couldn't agree more with your last sentiment. How debates are perceived just don't make any sense to me. And like you, I mean in terms of I knowing what I saw with my own eyes, and I knowing what i think of it, and then the next day or so, the zeitgeist reaction bears little to no resemblance to what I experienced.

The first Obama/Romney debate, I thought was boring and eventless, and then Obama was somehow terrible and Romney was great???

All of the Republican debates are totally bizarre to me, but I'm not the intended audience so I am perpetually confused as to how anyone can assign anything other than embarrassment to them.

Lastly, in the first Democratic debate, I thought Clinton was genuinely terrible, and went to bed that night sure of it (and I say that as a Bernie fan who will gladly vote for Clinton if and when the time comes). The fact that she has somehow been deemed to be better than before after that performance is just dumbfounding to me.

But hey, I liked John Edwards in 2007, so I've known for some time that my political judgment is off.

Steve M. said...

I'm not bad at putting myself into the frame of mind of a right-wing voter most of the time, but I really don't understand Carson's appeal. Rubio, Cruz, even Trump -- sure. But Carsonmania baffles me. All I can ever think of is Chauncey Gardiner in Being There.

Curtis Tribble said...

I find his appeal baffling also, but come Iowa, I expect to see him fall victim to the Bradley Effect.