Thought you’d want to see what’s flying around New England and online today as Bush, Cruz, Kasich, and Christie (but not Trump, oddly) empty the chamber at Rubio to try to deny him another momentum-boosting showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Four clips for you below, in order: A new ad from a pro-Cruz Super PAC comparing the “lightweight” to Peter Pan; a “Rubio = Obama” compilation clip being touted by Kasich advisor John Weaver; a snippet from MSNBC this morning of Christie hinting that Rubio’s no-exceptions position on abortion makes him unelectable; and an interview with Jeb Bush in which Bush laments that Rubio is a “career politician” and that “his whole life has been around his ambitions.” Because if there’s anyone you want leading the charge against career politicians, it’s … a scion of the Bush dynasty. Good lord.
The “career politician” and “Republican Obama” attacks are fair enough and you can judge for yourself whether Rubio’s a lightweight (ahem), but Christie’s being a bit too cute with the abortion attack. Rubio’s never said that he opposes an exception for abortion when a mother’s life is threatened; last week, in fact, he said he does support one. He opposes exceptions for rape and incest, though, and that will be a liability for him in the fall. (He’s tried to finesse that by noting that he’s voted for bills before that have had those exceptions built in on the theory that half a loaf is better than none in reducing abortions.) That doesn’t mean he’s less electable than Cruz or Trump, but it does mean he’s less electable than his ardent fans would have you believe.
One thing curiously missing in all this: No one’s attacking Rubio for being “establishment.” The thought of that complaint coming from Christie, Bush, or Kasich may seem silly, but the first two have attacked Rubio for supporting “amnesty” despite their own centrist records on immigration. Consistency is worth nothing during kitchen-sink time. Maybe they think there are no votes to be had in more moderate New Hampshire by hitting Rubio for his popularity inside the Beltway, especially with Trump sucking up most of the populist votes, but “Rubio is a tool of special interests” seems like it’d be more effective in suppressing votes for Rubio than chanting “boy in the bubble” 50 times a day would. Remember, even if Rubio finishes ahead of them, the other center-righties need him to finish poorly so that they have an excuse to soldier on to South Carolina. The “special interests” attack might not shift any votes from Rubio to Jeb Bush, but it could shift them somewhere. And that’s job one right now for Jeb and company.
At a time like this, a man who’s being battered could use a friend. Where are you when he needs you, Mitt?
And as recently as the past 48 hours, Romney has told associates in at least two of the GOP campaigns that he has no plan to endorse before New Hampshire votes.
But close Romney allies do not rule out a last minute change of heart. In saying that, they acknowledge a shift in his thinking about the race post-Iowa, and these sources tell CNN that should Romney decide to drop his neutrality before Tuesday, the all-but-certain recipient of that blessing would be Marco Rubio.
CNN is told there is a fresh Rubio effort to win Romney’s endorsement based on his third place showing in Iowa. The Florida senator’s team makes the case that now is the time to coalesce around Rubio as the strongest alternative to Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz…
Romney, according to sources close to the former Massachusetts governor, has a trademark reaction to such talk: Is there data to support the argument that Rubio is in play to defeat Trump in New Hampshire?
Is that the key question right now, whether Rubio can beat Trump next week? I thought the question was whether Rubio will beat Bush, Christie, Kasich, and (ideally) Cruz, preferably by a lot, which would all but eliminate the first three and make South Carolina a three-man race. If the kitchen-sink attacks weaken Rubio to the point where he underperforms, we may end up with a muddle on the center-right in SC, which raises the chance of a Trump/Cruz two-man race over the next month. If Romney wants to stop Trump, his best play is to go all-in for Rubio right now knowing that a likely worst-case scenario is that Rubio finishes a strong second in New Hampshire and the best-case scenario is that he stuns Trump and effectively eliminates him from the race. What are you waiting for, Mitt?