And Politico's Eli Stokols is back in love:
Rubio surges back to electrify South CarolinaBe still, my fluttering heart!
After stumbling badly in New Hampshire, the Florida senator is dazzling crowds as ‘the comeback kid.’
Marco Rubio carried a message to South Carolina: He is “at peace” with his failure in New Hampshire....
When he finished, Rubio basked in thunderous applause from a 2,000-person, standing-room-only crowd, roughly 10 percent of the town's population.
... a confident debate performance Saturday night (a CBS poll showed 32 percent of respondents thought Rubio won the night) ... has enabled Rubio to move beyond the "Robot Rubio" narrative before it overtook his campaign....
After a few listless days on the trail in New Hampshire after the debate, Rubio has regained his energy, confidence — and sense of humor....
The spontaneous mix of laughter and thunderous cheers that erupted wasn’t that of an audience politely humoring a candidate -- it was the sound of a connection being sealed.
Rubio, when things are working for him, has always been precisely the kind of candidate the mainstream press wants to love: new, young, male, a bro-ish dad, a guy who's serious enough to seem to have gravitas but who clearly radiates the sense that he'd rather talk football. Regrettably for the press, Rubio learns the material well enough to regurgitate it on the final but not well enough to actually understand it, so it's easy to trip him up (he's not going to BS his way out of a question he can't answer, like Donald Trump; he'll just recite talking points). But in South Carolina, apparently, he's doing well.
Or well enough to finish second. That will be good enough for the love affair to rekindle fully, as Stokols explains:
If Rubio simply finishes ahead of Jeb Bush, who is poling a distant fourth or fifth in some surveys, and emerges from this state, always critical to his chances, as the establishment’s comeback kid, it will be because of his campaign’s quick adjustment in the face of adversity -- and its unwavering faith in the candidate himself.Yes, it's true: Trump can win twice Rubio's vote total, and Rubio can merely tie Cruz, and Rubio will still be declared the winner, because he exceeded expectations. It's not clear that he ever has to win a primary to be the press's favorite. He certainly doesn't have to win one anytime soon.
The subtext of this is the notion that Rubio can win at a brokered convention. As I noted last week, Rubio's campaign has been selling the notion that brokered convention is a possible Rubio path to victory:
... Marco Rubio suddenly faces a path to his party's presidential nomination that could require a brokered national convention.Today's there's another article about the possibility of a brokered convention, this time from Politico's Ben Schreckinger. It's illustrated with a photo of Rubio.
That's according to Rubio's campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, who told The Associated Press that this week's disappointing performance in New Hampshire will extend the Republican nomination fight for another three months, if not longer....
"We very easily could be looking at May -- or the convention," Sullivan said aboard Rubio's charter jet from New Hampshire to South Carolina on Wednesday. "I would be surprised if it's not May or the convention."
Can Rubio really take the nomination at a brokered convention? Wouldn't it help for him to win a state or two?
It may not matter. The press wants to believe. If those PPP numbers are accurate, expect there to be a lot of smitten Rubio believers in the media after the polls close in South Carolina.