Sunday, February 7, 2016

Marco Rubio and the Hall of Presidents

Last night, during the debates, Rubio--under attack by Chris Christie--got "stuck on repeat." Like a robot--or a Disney anamatronic--he repeated, with the same cadence, his same talking point, like 4x over. While he recovered nicely by the end of the debate (in the more friendly second half), The Omnivore thinks the replay of this is going to be devastating. It's harmful on two fronts:

  1. As Ace at Ace of Spades HQ points out, the narrative that Rubio is a robot repeating slick market-tested talking points is now established. You won't be able to listen to him without that being in your head. In other words, this is the kind of thing that plays into the target's negative brand and therefore sticks.
  2. Silver at 538 notes that Rubio's betting-odds declined in real-time about 3%. That's not terrible (compare to Perry's "Ooops" flash-crash in '12, which destroyed him)--but the fact that this registered with people who are thinking about the future. If that happened to Rubio in a 1-on-1 debate with Clinton? Disaster. In other words, the damage is real.
Exactly how this plays over the rest of the month is still up in the air. Rubio has a degree of immunity since he got credit for a "win" while coming in 3rd in Iowa--but if Trump wins in NH and Rubio doesn't come in second . . . The 'boy in the bubble' (Christie's term for him) might get . . . popped.

Right now everyone is fragile.

Tuesday's Vote

For The Omnivore's money, Trump came out looking surprisingly strong. While various commenters took issue with him--and maybe Jeb finally got the best of him in an exchange--he looked more sane and restrained while still unapologetic and strong. He even broke the 4th wall, taking on the audience for being a bunch of political donor-class people and refused to back down in the face of boos.

That's, whatever else you may think, gutsy. Trump does not back down and that's part of his value-prop. He reinforced that last night.

Cruz proved that he, once again, will say anything for a vote, when he tried to pick up Rand Paul voters while coming out against waterboarding. Does anyone, anywhere, believe Cruz has a problem with waterboarding? With torture in general? Cruz's selling points are not mercy--or having a heart--that's not his brand--but he wants Paul-voters so he said what he kinda had to--uncomfortably.

He didn't get savaged for it--but The Omnivore doesn't think he was all that convincing either. He did get a humanizing moment talking about someone he knew who died of addiction (New Hampshire has been hit hard by the Heroin epidemic and it's a big topic of voting there). Not sure if that'll be enough though.

The Net-Net

It's unclear if these debates can really still make a difference--but if they can, this one probably was quite damaging to Rubio and may have been rough on Cruz. While some people think Trump also did badly, The Omnivore doesn't agree. Having the candidates beat each other up in these demolition derbies is something the party may seriously come to regret.

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