Thursday, February 04, 2016


In The New York Times, Michael Barbaro and Jonathan Martin tell us about Chris Christie's efforts to slow Marco Rubio's ascent in the polls. What Christie's doing seems really incompetent:
Over the past 48 hours, Mr. Christie has mocked Mr. Rubio as a cosseted “boy in the bubble,” derided him as “constantly scripted,” likened him to “the king of England,” and, perhaps most creatively, compared his Senate career to that of a helpless fourth grader who is told which chair to sit in at school.
It's pointless to call Rubio the “boy in the bubble” or say he's “constantly scripted.” Why? Because these aren't critiques of Rubio as a potential president -- they're critiques of Rubio's campaigning style. They're of professional interest to Christie as a fellow pol. They're not of interest to voters. And Christie has more where that came from:
During [a] news conference, Christie called Rubio “the master of the drive-by town hall” for meetings that run shorter in length compared to Christie's typical two-hour-long town hall and quipped that “every day is Groundhog Day for the Rubio campaign," with Rubio sticking to scripted remarks.
How Rubio campaigns matters a lot to Chris Christie. It doesn't mean jack to the average New Hampshire voter. I'm not saying that voters are laser-focused on issues -- yes, they're easily swayed by rhetorical flourishes and campaign gimmicks. But they don't care that the guy has a stump speech and repeats it from one town to another. They're not hearing it at every diner every day. As an attack line, this is too meta. It's a campaign critique about campaigning, not about whether Rubio would be a good president.

And what about that comparison of Rubio to a fourth grader? Barbaro and Martin elaborate:
At Londonderry High School, he found a fourth-grader named Matthew in the audience and posed a series of questions to him about his daily routine.

Did he have a set time when he had to be at school? Yes, the boy said.

An assigned desk to sit in? The boy nodded.

A list of questions to answer each day -- and a summer break? Matthew answered affirmatively.

Mr. Christie pounced: “They do that in the United States Senate, too!” The audience roared.

The Senate, he said, was a foolhardy place from which to pick a president.

“What we are all wondering is: How does that train you to be president?” Mr. Christie said.
That's Christie's line of attack, Chris? That we should never elect a president who's a U.S. senator? Forget the fact that the current president was a senator -- I'm sure that doesn't impress GOP voters in New Hampshire. But JFK was a senator -- and yes, these are Republican voters, but this is still New England, Chris. In two of the last three contest primaries in New Hampshire, Republican voters picked John McCain -- a senator.

Elsewhere in the Times, Barbaro tells us that Christie is attacking Rubio on abortion -- inaccurately.
“He’s made it very clear that -- on the issue of pro-life, Marco Rubio is not for an exception for rape, incest or life of the mother,” Mr. Christie said. “Now, you know, I think that’s the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about.”

... contrary to Mr. Christie’s claim, [Rubio] does support an exception for cases in which a mother’s life is in danger.

“I think there needs to be an exception for the life of the mother,” Mr. Rubio said in Iowa last week.

Mr. Rubio did not, however, mention exceptions in the case of rape or incest. “I want to see abortions in America reduced,” he said.

During a Republican candidate debate in August, Mr. Rubio declared that he had never supported exceptions that would allow for abortions if conception occurred from rape or incest.

But Mr. Rubio has suggested in the past that his opposition to abortion is total. “I believe a human being is entitled to life, irrespective of the circumstances in which that human being was conceived and so forth,” Mr. Rubio told Glenn Beck during a radio interview in August 2015.
First of all, nailing down Rubio's position on this is like nailing Jell-O to a wall -- he's deliberately evasive. But beyond that, Christie does realize that states other than New Hampshire will have primaries in the future, right? Including states where voters really like candidates who are very, very anti-abortion? Is Christie sure he wants to win the Republican primaries?

Even Christie's main critique of Rubio is weak:
On Wednesday, Mr. Christie challenged anyone “to show me the significant accomplishment that Senator Rubio has done while he’s in the United States Senate.”

“I can’t find one,” Mr. Christie added.
Barack Obama had a thin record in 2008. He won. George W. Bush had a thin record in 2000. He won, or at least got close enough to win on a technicality. Bill Clinton was seen as less experienced than George H.W. Bush. Reagan was a movie actor for most of his adult life. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer and one-term governor. To American voters, experience doesn't matter very much. (I'm ignoring Christie's assumption that he has an unquestionably impressive record of accomplishment.)

Oh, and as Barbaro and Martin note, Christie is launching these attacks as part of a joint venture:
... Mr. Christie has a secret ally: Jeb Bush.

... Members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt Mr. Rubio’s rise in the polls, according to Republican operatives familiar with the conversations.

... A division of labor seems to have taken hold. While a well-financed “super PAC” supporting Mr. Bush assails Mr. Rubio on television and in the mail (it will release a new batch of ads on Thursday), Mr. Christie has stepped up the critiques on the campaign trail.

“Jeb can’t do that sort of stuff,” said an adviser to Mr. Christie, referring to the New Jersey governor’s slashing “boy in the bubble” attack on Mr. Rubio and his comfort with political street fighting. “They don’t have the weapon.”
“Jeb can’t do that sort of stuff.” Savor that. Vote Jeb -- he's too much of a weakling to attack his opponents personally, but he will find goons to do the attacking for him.

What does that remind me of? Oh, yes:


biz5th said...

Christie isn't doing as badly as you say - Rubio's weakness is his baby face and non-ready-for primetime demeanor. Christie is trying to reinforce those stereotypes.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Not to defend Christie, but his rationale may not be so much to dissuade voters as to force Rubio to respond and, thereby, stepp outside his "bubble" where he clearly isn't comfortable. This may be more about trying to force errors than sway votes directly on the issue of how Rubio campaigns. I'd have a guy start following Rubio around in a robot costume -- "Rubio Roboto." Make the media make it an issue. It makes Rubio look shallow and callow.