Friday, February 26, 2016


First off, a fact check on last night's Republican debate:
From the opening moments of the debate, Mr. Rubio pounced. Deploying his own up-by-the-bootstraps biography, the Florida senator assailed Mr. Trump for hiring hundreds of foreign workers at his tony resort in Florida and passing over Americans who had applied for the same jobs.

“My mom was a maid in a hotel,” Mr. Rubio said. “And instead of hiring an American like her, you’ve brought over 1,000 people from all over the world to fill in those jobs instead.”
"An American like her"? Well, yes and no. From Marco Rubio's campaign site:
Marco’s mother, Oria Rubio, was approved for an immigration visa in Havana, Cuba at the U.S. Embassy on May 18, 1956. She arrived in Miami, Florida on May 27, 1956 with Marco’s dad, Mario. She became a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 5, 1975.
So she was here for nineteen years before she became a U.S. citizen. According to Rubio's memoir, she worked as a maid both before and after becoming a citizen. But for nearly two decades she wasn't "an American" -- she was a non-citizen immigrant living and working in America.


But did Rubio's attacks on Trump last night have an effect? The consensus over at Fox is summed up in the headline Fox Nation gives to a Doug Schoen column at
The Marco Rubio Everyone Had Been Waiting For Finally Woke Up At Houston Debate ... But It's Still a Trump World
Schoen lavishes praise on Rubio:
He was sharp, articulate, cutting, passionate and bold.....

But what was different on Thursday night was that Rubio showed real backbone.
But it doesn't matter:
... it won’t be enough to change the alignment of the candidates....

More so than with any other candidate, Trump’s voters make up their minds early. They are committed to him and after big wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, Trump has shown that his base will turn out to vote for him even though they’re largely from groups that don’t typically vote in primaries (lower income, high school educated). And with leads in every Super Tuesday state except for Texas where Cruz is slightly ahead, there’s no reason to think that Thursday night’s debate changes the trajectory.

... it’s a Trump world and the rest of the candidates are just living in it. We better get used to it.
In a Frank Luntz focus group on Fox, the respondents said Rubio won the debate -- but when Luntz polled the group and Rubio won by acclamation, Luntz said:
And yet what I don't understand is you've all been talking about Trump for the last ten minutes. Why is Trump dominating the converation?
That's Rubio's problem in a nutshell. He didn't win as Rubio. He won as the guy who attacked Trump. Later in the clip (which I can't embed), Luntz asks, "What is it about Rubio that he did so well?" Two people answer: "He was able to attack Trump." Even when Rubio wins, he wins being defined by Trump. He doesn't come off as his own man.

Frankly, he doesn't come off as a man at all. One woman who talks about Rubio describes him this way:
Rubio is charming. He's got a little boyish face, he come across as just that all-American boy.
While a man who's skeptical about him says this:
Rubio's a great orator. It was like student council tonight. But didn't we just elect an orator twice in a row? How do you feel about that?
Republicans have two contradictory views of President Obama -- he's an all-powerful totalitarian willfully destroying America, and he's a feckless lightweight who's completely overmatched, even though he's pretty good at reading speeches off Teleprompters. This man invokes the latter image to condemn Rubio. That's not good for Marco.

At The New York Times, Frank Bruni writes this:
Almost each of [Rubio's] attacks on Trump made good sense. All were entirely fair. But as they piled up higher than even the most majestic Trump-envisioned border wall could ever reach, he came across as strident, mocking, condescending, bratty.

And it was impossible not to wonder if he was doing precisely what Chris Christie had when he tried to take Rubio down in the debate just before the New Hampshire primary: bloodying his adversary at a cost of seriously wounding himself.

... when music gets that ugly, everyone involved can wind up sounding equally bad....

What’s more, Rubio undercut his considerable efforts so far to be -- and to label himself as -- the candidate of optimism, uplift, positivity.
I'll agree with "bratty." Rubio never comes off as an grown-up. (Trump is infantile, but comes off as an adult who's childish.)

As for the rest of what Bruni writes, I don't think Rubio comes off as dark and angry the way Christie did -- he doesn't have enough depth. He's a pretty boy, but he's an uncharismatic one.

Molly Ivins wrote that Michael Dukakis "has got no Elvis"; Rubio isn't quite Dukakis, but he doesn't have much Elvis. He's young the way JFK and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were when they ran, but he never comes off as wise or sage the way Obama in particular can, and he doesn't have the touch of bad boy that JFK and Clinton did. All could seem mature and steady, despite their youth. Rubio lacks that ability. He just seems like a really bright kid giving a speech and struggling to stand up straight. (Go back to the video of last night and watch him fidget during the national anthem.)

Rubio might have hurt Trump a little bit, though I think it's too late for that. But he still didn't give enough Republican voters enough reason to vote for Rubio. I'm not sure he can.


But before you ask: Yes, I still think Rubio would win a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. At that point Rubio would have the entire GOP Establishment behind him, as well as the mainstream media. He'd have a huge money advantage if his opponent was the super-PAC-less Sanders. And while Rubio can seem like a politician with only enough talent to thrive in the minors, Clinton clearly isn't a natural politician at all. And she'll have trouble making him look like a callow little boy the way Trump does -- the risk is that, if she tries that, sexists in the GOP, the media, and the electorate will say she comes off as a nagging old hag. He'd still win. But he's probably too weak a primary candidate to get the chance this year.


AllieG said...

Old school as it gets Dem Joe Biden went up against media heartthrob "new" Republican Paul Ryan in a 2012 debate and cleaned his clock. No reason Clinton couldn't do the same to Rubio. If there's one thing we've learned this election, very few voters of any persuasion give a damn about what the media tells them.

ChrisNBama said...

As usual, I agree with your assessment, Steve. The trajectory of this race is set. Rubio had sufficient opportunities to knock Trump off of his perch, but waited until his back was against the wall. Now it comes across, as Trump said last night, that he's swinging at the fences.

I fully expect there will be some short lived sighing of relief by the GOP establishment that their pick is fighting back, but they will recoil in horror again as Trump continues dominating the primary elections.

Hurling Dervish said...

As far as Rubio beating a Democrat, you don't think his positions will doom him in the long run? Exceptionless opposition to abortion? Tax cuts for the wealthy? Doesn't know a Sunni from a Shiite?

Gerald Parks said...

AND ...NO mention of Cruz!!!!!!!

Was he at the debate???

Anonymous said...

He just seems like a really bright kid giving a speech and struggling to stand up straight.

Even putting the whole performance in the best possible light, Rubio comes off to me as much more "earnest" than "bright."

Feud Turgidson said...

"Rubio's problem in a nutshell. He didn't win as Rubio. He won as the guy who attacked Trump"

That's the most acutely accurate thing on the Trump Phenomenon and how it's too strong for this Cuban, any Cuban, that I can recall from not just you but anyone, Steve. Exlains perfectly how Trump can both lost the debate yet win the follow-up poll.

The Cubans are just pipsqueaks and gargoyles.

swkellogg said...

They don't want someone who can win a debate.

They want someone who can win a fight.

Mikio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Feud Turgidson said...

How is that
"Cruz" is pronounced "CROOZ", like in cruise missile, Tom the short bad actor, Caribbean, blued, clue'd, crude, dude, food, Jew'd, lewd, mood, nude, oud, poo'd, rude, screwed, stewed, tatooo'd, voodoo and zoo,
"Rudd", as in Paul Rudd -
who beat black hole guy S. Hawking to take over #1 in the Universe rankings of Quantum Chess Nerdmeisters:
( )
is pronounced "RU'HD", as in flood, air bud, crud, cow's cud, bomb dud, stud, luddite, mud, nut, putz, SCUDs force or SCUD missile, beer or soap suds, Bible huggers, granny muggers, buggerers, and Methodists?

Shouldn't it be "Ted Cruz" as in "Ed" the talking horse, or Tex like in "Tex and Edna Boil's Organ Emporium"
then "Cruz" as in "crud"?

If he spelled it T-E-Z then C-R-U-D, that would be pronounced "Tez" as in "fez" then "Crud" as in dud, amiright? But in fairness, he's the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, so he should be granted the dignity of "Tex".

That works as a mnemonic: "Ted Cruz" = "Tex Crud". Unforgettable.

Mikio said...

Yes, I still think Rubio would win a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

I largely share your pessimism, but a pleasing thought entered my mind as I was brushing my teeth a couple months back: Trump will be the nominee because the names Cruz and Rubio are too Hispanic for the GOP's base.

I know this with probably eighty-five percent surety having spent about seven years going to political chat rooms like Yahoo and Paltalk where I saw just how bigoted/stupid regular conservatives are, especially talking amongst themselves. So their maintained preference for deport-'em-all-and-I'll-make-'em-pay-for-the-wall birther buffoon Trump has been no surprise to me, unlike the MSM. And because I think Hillary at least would crush him like a bug under the heel of her sensible shoes in the general, I've felt better ever since.

Mikio said...

Edit: I meant I largely share your pessimism on that particular point and just wanted to add another reason to believe Rubio won't get the nomination. I really shouldn't post pre-coffee.

Phil Freeman said...

Yes, I still think Rubio would win a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

It's good to believe in things. But believing in things in the absence of any credible evidence is not such a good idea.

At that point Rubio would have the entire GOP Establishment behind him, as well as the mainstream media.

You're pretty much the last person on Earth (who isn't currently employed by the mainstream media) who thinks that mainstream media opinion is in any way valued by Republican voters. The GOP Establishment is similarly, if much less, diminished this year, or does the name "Donald Trump" not ring any bells? The Establishment wanted Bush. The public told the Establishment to go fuck itself with something barbed. You think when the Establishment tells the public to vote Rubio, the response is gonna be any warmer? Based on what? The fact that the Establishment still has power and control over their voters, they've just...for some reason...failed to exercise it for the last 6-9 months?

Nope, this year, a man who plays Daddy Warbucks on TV is running for President. And he's gonna be his (current) party's nominee. And the former First Lady/former Senator/former Secretary of State is gonna treat him like a windshield treats a fly.

Steve M. said...

Phil, go look at Obama's margins of victory in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, and Maine. Now tell me how Wisconsin elected Scott Walker and Ron Johnson, Ohio elected Rob Portman and John Kasich, Michigan elected Rick Fucking Snyder, Colorado elected Cory Gardner, Iowa elected Joni Ernst, and Maine elected Paul Le Page, the stupidest man on the planet, twice, the second time with 48% of the vote in a three-way race.

Tell me why you think supposedly rock-solid Democratic states go Republican.

It's not about hardcore yellow-dog Republicans. It's about people in the middle -- swing voters or people who show up in some elections but not others. They're the ones the MSM can sway. It's not rocket science.

Phil Freeman said...

More people vote in Presidential elections than in gubernatorial or Congressional elections. That's all it is.

Steve M. said...

But most of the victorious Republicans I just named replaced Democrats. Ron Johnson replaced Russ Feingold. Joni Ernst replaced Tom Harkin. Rick Snyder replaced Jennifer Granholm. "Oh, don't worry -- Democrats always lose non-presidential elections." Why wasn't that true until recently? What changed?

Ebon Krieg said...

We became dumber. Home schooling has helped. Louder old white people searching for the "good ole days" may be a factor. People forget. People hate.

Unknown said...

Ladbrokes now has Hillary at 58%, Donald 29%, Marco 12%, Bernie 8%