For months now, Marco Rubio has taken the high road, refusing to run any negative advertising and, for the most part, refusing to criticize his opponents on anything other than policy differences. However, The CNN Republican Debate on Thursday night marked a change in the race heading into Super Tuesday.
Report from the Washington Post:
Hours after mounting the fiercest assault of his campaign against Donald Trump in Thursday’s debate, Marco Rubio established a new line of attack against the Republican front-runner, branding him a “con artist” and hurling insult after insult at him during a Friday morning rally in Dallas.
Rubio mocked Trump’s misspelled tweets. He jabbed at Trump’s age. And he portrayed Trump as a scared and phony politician.
On social media, Trump launched his own offensive, labeling Rubio “Mr. Meltdown” and pointing to his spotty Senate attendance record.
The dramatic escalation in hostility between two candidates, who had mostly avoided each other before the debate, set the stage for a brutal 2 1/2-week stretch that appears set to determine whether Trump will effectively clinch the Republican nomination by mid-March or whether the race will drag on, possibly all the way to the GOP convention in July.
As the race heads into March, with Donald Trump showing no signs of weakening anytime soon, something had to change moving forward for Rubio. I suspect that donors and advisors decided that playing “Mr. Nice” any further would continue to rack up an impressive number of 2nd place “victories” but not do much to knock down Trump.
The play for Rubio, at this point, is to work his way into some victories in March and hopefully do enough damage to deny Trump the needed number of delegates. Report on this from CNN:
Marco Rubio’s campaign is preparing for a contested Republican Convention as one option to take the GOP nomination away from Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, his campaign manager told top donors at a closed-door meeting in Manhattan Wednesday night.
Marco Rubio super PAC hits Super Tuesday airwaves without rivals
As Rubio scrambles for support ahead of Super Tuesday, Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s top adviser, used a Power Point presentation and took questions from attendees to lay out the two courses that Rubio’s quest for the GOP nomination could take in the coming months, two people present told CNN, speaking anonymously to share details from a private meeting.
The courses laid out hinged on whether Trump amassed the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, or not. If Trump should fall short, Rubio’s plan is to work the convention and eventually become the nominee. There are a lot of moving parts in that plan before it could possibly come to fruition, but it’s the best hope he has short of some outright victories by consolidating the anti-Trump vote. The longer Cruz, Kasich, and Carson are in the race, the harder that is to do. Furthermore, Cruz has no reason to drop out, especially since he’s leading in Texas and no less competitive than Rubio most everywhere else.
We should know on Tuesday, March 1st, whether Rubio’s new strategy is working.