I’ve said this a few times before. But it is really too bad for the Republican party (and the United States) that Marco Rubio is simply too weak a reed for the task his increasingly desperate and confounded party has set out for him. I’m not sure whether Rubio or someone else could have gotten traction if they’d started launching these pretty obvious attacks sooner or whether they’ll start to resonate over next couple weeks. (I think there’s a decent chance they will; I just suspect it will be too late.) But as I said over the weekend, the simple truth is that Donald Trump is just better at this than Marco Rubio. A lot better.
Trump’s insults are childish and often silly. But they are almost always very well targeted and slash at some deep vulnerability in his victim. Rubio’s off calling Trump orange and small-handed and saying he’s flying on “hair force one.” These rips must sound awesome if you love Rubio and hate Trump. But actually Rubio is just flailing. The Trump University stuff is real and I think could well be devastating. But they feel like they have to throw everything. And it’s not that well targeted. This morning’s CNN poll showing Trump with 49% support nationwide, albeit including little reaction from the weekend, cast a pall over the whole manic effort, making it seem less like Rubio had found Trump’s hidden weakness and more like he’s just losing his remaining dignity along with the race.
Watching this unbelievable and massive spectacle feels like watching a nature documentary with one of those bracing, mesmerizing videos of an iceberg collapse. Rubes is trying. But you keep seeing these establishment bigwigs jumping. (Rats rushing to board the ship!) Christie, LePage, Brewer, Sessions, Kobach. They’re like the first mammoth shards sloughing off the edifice, ice hillocks falling away, with the whole process building on itself.
It’s true that aside from Christie, none of these endorsers are big national figures, though Sessions is a powerful Senator who owns the anti-immigrant issue on the right. But Rubio’s strategy and the strategy of the notional establishment is to press the argument that this isn’t even a fight. There’s no question, no debate. Trump is an untouchable, a person beyond the pale of the real Republican party, an invader, a virus. But each time a substantial Republican elected official comes out and endorses him it shows that at a minimum it’s not that clear cut and maybe not true at all.
New shards keep sloughing off. And it feels like we’re nearing that moment where the whole edifice starts to fall all at once. Of course, maybe tomorrow night will change the story dramatically. But I doubt it.