Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been spending the past few days on the campaign trail hitting Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump as hard as he possibly can, figuratively speaking. Donald Trump has so far won three out of the four early contests that are scheduled prior to Super Tuesday, having achieved decisive victories in primary races in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, and in a caucus race in Nevada.
The Iowa caucus, which is the very first contest for both the Democrats and the Republicans, was won by Texas Senator Ted Cruz on February 1. Super Tuesday is on March 1, and as of Sunday, Marco Rubio polls at a disappointing third place behind Ted Cruz, according to Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight. Rubio has yet to win a primary or caucus race in a single state, and he isn’t polling well in the analyses of upcoming individual state races, either.
Donald Trump has been attacking Marco Rubio as a “lightweight” and referring to him condescendingly as “Little Marco,” telling Fox News Sunday in his typical odd phrasing, “He’s going to lose big league.” Rubio hasn’t been particularly willing to tangle with Trump — who unexpectedly did a number on former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, pushing him out of the race much earlier than anyone anticipated — for most of this election season.
However, seeing no other choice and finding himself an extreme underdog going into the Super Tuesday races, Marco Rubio has begun adopting Donald Trump’s harsh tone and has jumped into the sparring with both feet. Notably, this was also Jeb Bush’s last-ditch strategy before he dropped out of the race on February 20, after badly losing the South Carolina primary.
Marco Rubio went after Donald Trump hard at a Dallas rally on Friday. He said that if Trump had not had a family inheritance of several million dollars, he would be selling watches on the street in Manhattan, and mocked him for being “the first one who begged for Secret Service protection.” Rubio pulled out his smartphone and started making fun of Donald Trump’s Twitter account (the Trump campaign says the account is sometimes manned by Trump himself and sometimes by an intern), particularly the repeated misspelling of the word “choker” as “chocker” in attempts to label Marco Rubio as someone who chokes under pressure.
“It’s time to pull his mask off so people can see what we’re dealing with here, and what we’re dealing with is a con artist. He made his entire career sticking it to the little guy.”
Marco Rubio also went on an extended tear, mocking Trump’s behavior backstage at the CNN debate the previous evening, saying that he was making diva-like demands for a full-length mirror despite the fact that the candidates were going to stand behind chest-high lecterns, and suggested that it was because Trump wanted to “check to see if his pants were wet.” Rubio also said that Trump had “one of those sweat mustaches” that he was frantically trying to cover with stage makeup, and that Trump was at one point gesticulating wildly and had to be calmed by a member of his campaign staff. Rubio continued this tone throughout the weekend at campaign stops that took him through Georgia, Alabama, and Virginia.
Marco Rubio has good reason to fear losing the primary in his home state of Florida on March 15, according to the polling analysis provided by Five Thirty Eight. Nate Silver and his team have Rubio in a distant second place behind Trump, with Rubio at 33 percent and Trump at 66 percent.
There are just over two weeks for Rubio to work to avoid the humiliation of losing his home state to a man with zero political experience, but many pundits believe that as long as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are both in the race, they will continue to split the anti-Trump vote, clearing the path for a Donald Trump nomination. One of the two remaining senators dropping out of the race may be the only way to stop him at this point, and even that strategy may not save the Republican party from Donald Trump.
[Image courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images]