Cable news replayed the clip of Rubio sipping water more than 200 times yesterday

Say thanks to Jeff Poor and the Daily Caller for enduring the Ludovico-ish process needed to tally these numbers. The “200 times” figure comes with an asterisk: Turns out Rachel Maddow alone accounted for more than half the replays by putting the clip of Rubio reaching for the water on a loop, tucked into a corner of the screen, for 13 minutes while she and Steve Kornacki were hashing out the particulars of his speech. (Seeing is believing.) Jon Stewart once chided her and MSNBC for beating the “teabagger” joke into the ground, but in hindsight he should be glad she never resorted to a push-button morning-zoo-style soundboard for the T-word. She’s always been touted as a more civil, substantive alternative to Olbermann, and in fairness this episode bears that out. If Olby were still on the air, he would have run the clip for the full hour.

At Mediaite, Joe Concha looks at the tone of the coverage across various networks and wonders how it’s come to this:

Since old, white, stuffy Mitt Romney’s defeat in November, the media has lectured us on what kind of candidate the GOP needs to produce, which actually sounds similar to a remedy for a struggling baseball team: Republicans need to get younger, more diverse, stronger up the middle.

So what happens when a respected 41-year-old Cuban-American Republican U.S. Senator is put on the national stage?

The media turns him into a punch line. And if you’re like most Americans too busy to devote hours of time to watch the State of the Union and its rebuttal, the news you got this morning portrayed Rubio as Cindy in the infamous spelling bee episode of the Brady Bunch (Cindy aces all tests in school until a red light on a camera during a televised contest freezes her beyond repair).

Poor impression made.

Mission accomplished.

What’s interesting about the Maddow segment is that she actually does engage with the specifics of Rubio’s speech yet still felt obliged to have the water clip running over and over onscreen, which ends up distracting from the commentary. But then, why limit yourself to convincing the viewer with your argument when you can condition them to view Rubio as a ridiculous figure with visual cues too? She might as well have skipped the clip and simply delivered her commentary over a flashing banner, “DO NOT TAKE MARCO RUBIO SERIOUSLY.”

If you exclude the 101 replays on Maddow’s show, you’re still at 100 replays for the day. On Fox, the clip ran an average of once every 90 minutes over 18 hours; on CNN a bit more than every 30 minutes, with Wolf Blitzer accounting for most of that; and on MSNBC, naturally, every 20 minutes. Here’s the guy whom MSNBC has airing at 6 p.m., the national news hour, predictably mispronouncing Rubio’s name and demonstrating that he still hasn’t learned that you don’t need to shout on a TV set the way you do on a theater stage to make your voice heard. Nice job by Reverend Al’s writers, though: This is, by current standards, legitimately SNL-quality comedy.