This post has been updated.
ABC’s short post-debate analysis on Saturday panned Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) canned perfomance, agreeing his unexpectedly strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucus did not help him through a rough debate in New Hampshire.
Former Bush-Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd said Rubio’s poor performance kept more Republican underdogs—like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)—in the race than before the debate.
“I think Jeb Bush, watching that tonight, if Jeb Bush finishes fourth or fifth, Jeb Bush is thinking, this guy is not going to last,” said Dowd, now the chief political analyst for ABC News.
Democratic consultant Donna Brazile also called it a bad night for Rubio.
“Marco Rubio did not come prepared tonight to make closing arguments in a time when there are still a lot of undecided voters,” she said. “Tonight, he decided to run against President Obama in 2008, not the president who, you know, may come. So, I thought this was a failed opportunity for him tonight.”
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl noted that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s repeated salvos at Rubio made him a “dominant” force in the debate but openly wondered whether the attacks would accrue directly to Christie’s own benefit.
“I think Chris Christie in many ways was the dominant player in this debate,” Karl said. “The question is, did he do more than take out Marco Rubio? He went at Rubio very effectively. Is that going to bring people to say, I’m going to vote for Chris Christie, or did he open up the opportunity for the other governors?”