Monday, February 08, 2016


My first reaction to Marco Rubio's robot moment in Saturday's debate was to join with the herd and declare him seriously wounded. However, I think Nate Silver has a point:
... a lot of caution is also in order. Pundits haven’t misgauged the impact of a debate since … well, since only about a week ago, when the “smart take” was that Trump had won the final Iowa debate by not having shown up for it, and that Ted Cruz had a poor evening. Instead, Cruz won the Iowa caucuses a few days later, with Trump in second with a vote share well below where polls had projected him.

... Some of the reason we reporters thought Rubio’s answer was so awful is because it confirmed some of our gossip about Rubio, namely that he tends to give pat, repetitive answers. But we tend to be more sensitive about that stuff, because we watch every debate from start to finish, and then we see lots of the candidates’ stump speeches and town halls on top of it. There’s a fine line between a candidate who seems stilted and repetitive and one who seems “on message” instead.

Is there any evidence that home viewers saw Rubio’s performance differently? Well, maybe. On Google Trends, there was a huge spike in searches for Rubio during the debate -- but it came not during his glitchy moments but instead after an effective answer he delivered on abortion about two hours into the debate. Meanwhile, a Google Consumer Surveys poll conducted midway through the debate found respondents thought that Trump, Rubio and Cruz (in that order) were winning the debate.
We're reading at Politico that a snap poll shows Rubio slipping and John Kasich rising to second place, but it's an internal poll from the Kasich campaign, so grains of salt are in order. The same goes for the internal poll with similar results from a candidate who's not even identified, which we're told about at the oh-so-authoritative Breitbart.

Back in the world of real surveys, this morning's edition of the daily UMass-Lowell tracking poll shows Rubio slipping, but only by a point, to a second-place tie with Ted Cruz. And while anecdotes aren't data, check out what voters say in this NPR story about Rubio:

One supporter says with a laugh, "I know he got a little beat up, but he stayed on message!" She adds: "He was just talking about Obama, and that's kind of what he feels about it, and they always say that stuff over and over and over again, so of course he's going to say it over and over again." Another supporter, we're told, thinks Rubio was "bullied unfairly" ("He got taken by a very good prosecutor"). Yet another explains the glitch moments away by saying that Rubio's not an attack dog and that's OK ("We're not looking for someone who's able to necessarily attack"). An undecided voter hears him speak at a campaign appearance and says, "Better than the debate."

I think Silver might be right about political pros scoring this more poorly than voters. Voters expect politicians to do politician-y things ("they always say that stuff over and over and over again"). Maybe some are sick of it, but those people are probably voting for Trump or Carson or Cruz anyway.

David Corn believes that newfound media wariness is trouble enough for Rubio:
The narrative was Rubio gaining an edge in the so-called establishment lane of the race and being in the position to pull away from Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie....

Post "Marcobot," the media tale is quite different. Is Rubio ready? Is there any there there? Can this guy think on his feet? Does he have the smarts to be president? He can expect the press to keep a watchful eye on his words and note his penchant for repeating a series of well-honed lines. (Which is, after all, what a stump speech is.) What this means is that Rubio's best asset could turn into a liability....

Poof. That magic is gone. Or at least we now see the strings.
Yes -- but if he does well in New Hampshire, the Marcobot narrative will be gone. "Rubio, King of the Establishment Lane" will be the narrative once again. In fact, he'll have lowered expectations and then exceeded them.

Or he could come in fifth behind Trump, Kasich, Cruz, and Bush. In which case, the CW was right.


Jonas said...

I think it will hurt him. The problem isn't with people already committed to him justifying their commitment, he needs people who are undecided, or with marginal candidates, Carson, Fiorina, Christie, or even people who were leaning Trump or Cruz. It's their opinion that matters.

And tracking polls showing him losing support are a big deal because those are three day averages, and there was only one day post-debate to survey. Losing one point in one day is like losing 3 points overall-except the margin of error is higher due to the lower number of people polled.

Victor said...

Ok, so people may now realize that RUBE-io has strings, but that's not his only control mechanism.
But who would want to look for the hand up this puppet's ass?
No one.
So, he may still be ok.

Time will tell.
And so will we. Probably in less than 36 hours.

Feud Turgidson said...

I agree that Rubio could well retain pretty much the support in NH the pre-Feb 7 polls suggest; who knows, maybe a bit more, what with how even poll aggregation boils down to probabilities.

But I disagree that Rubio can fix the bigger, wider more long-term impression left by Christie's filleting job. Christie sent huge obvious messages it was coming, ones that Team Rubio could not possibly have missed, yet Rubio himself did not adjust. Maybe he could have and chose otherwise, expept there's no evidence he's capable of that; such evidence as exists all suggests instead that Rubio is UNABLE to adjust.

I'm a big baseball fan, every level from beer league to MLB, and the team that owns my heart is the Giants. The Giants have won the World Series 3 times in the last 6 post-seasons (and will again: it's an EVEN YEAR!), and while it's nowhere remotely fair to attribute their success to one person, if ANY Giant can be seriously suggested as 'most responsible' for that, it's their catcher, Buster Posey. Posey is a terrific hitter, with dangerous power, and has made himself into one of the best if not THE best at his position (It's arguable, but regardless: he's very goood defensively.). But Buster has a big problem with his skill set: he's a slow runner - markedly slower than I was at that age, and I was no pro-level athlete at anything. But for the other things he does, if he was just merely average as a hitter and catcher, that lack of foot speed would very likely have prevented him from not just being a big star in MLB but even gaining a regular job there.

In MLB terms, Marco's got some tool, but they're not top tools, just better than most. And he's got an array of problem issues, too, because he's got these wrong ideas about government. But on top of all that, he's got his huge hole in his toolkit that's holding him back now and, IMO, will continue to hold him back for the rest of his political career. His gifts aren't enough to overcome the combination of his stale wrong governing ideas - essentially, like Reagan, delegating out all decision making - and his turgid slowness on his feet is going to prove to have built a big ceiling on his prospects he simply can't overcome.

Ten Bears said...

The over-riding feeling I came away with is do these guys know Obama isn't running for re-election?

Victor said...

While I appreciate the analogy, please don't insult Buster by putting him in the same sentence as RUBE-io!
Rubio, on his best day, isn't a pimple on ass of the the fictional "Crash" Davis.
That, and Costner, the actor who played him, knew his lines, and didn't repeat them without reason.
Ok, maybe in the "out-takes."
But there are no out-takes in political debates.

Unknown said...

Ten Bears, President Obama is on the ballot as surely as Shrub was on the ballot in 2002, 2006 AND 2008.

IOW, the President casts a long shadow, even in years he's not really running.

Feud Turgidson said...

Classic Hammer Drops:

1. MC Hammer in "Can't Touch This":

The whole song is constructed around sudden stops, gain and again. E.g. at 1:01 all stops dead for a now0iconic half-beat between "a beat, HUH-" and "they can't touch".

2. Humphrey Bogart in "The Caine Mutiny":

This is from the climax, the cross-examination scene from the court martial. At 2:30, on the word "officers", Queeg stops short & finds himself in Wile E. Coyote territory with his paranoid conspiracy theories, & we hear nothing except the clicking from his rolling his metal balls:

3. Senator Marco Rubio on 2015 Feb 9:

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, at 0:26 note the extra beat between "our" and "throats", that comes across as something between a glottal stop and a swallow: