Hey now. If he’s willing to endorse a man whom he admittedly doesn’t trust with the nuclear codes, he should be willing to endorse a man whom he doesn’t trust with the nuclear codes and who’s prone to saying things like “grab them by the p***y.”

In fairness, what’s he supposed to say? The last poll of Florida, taken before Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape dropped, had Rubio up two points in his Senate race against Patrick Murphy. If Trump collapses there, Rubio’s in deep trouble. If, on top of that, Rubio kisses off Trump’s fan base, he’s a goner and so is the GOP Senate majority in all likelihood. He’s being as grudging as he can be in standing by his endorsement, but that’s the best he can do.

If you want Rubio to pull his support and denounce Trump, that’s fine. But understand that almost certainly means his career is over. That’s the state this party has come to.

“I ran against Donald Trump. And while I respect that voters chose him as the GOP nominee, I have never hesitated to oppose his policies I disagree with,” Rubio said in a statement. “And I have consistently rejected his offensive rhetoric and behavior. I disagree with him on many things, but I disagree with his opponent on virtually everything. I wish we had better choices for President. But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next President. And therefore my position has not changed.”

The peril in that logic is that it would apply no matter what other dirt on Trump might emerge in the next month. Remember Ted Cruz’s Facebook post endorsing Trump? His logic there was straightforward, insisting that in the end Trump is clearly preferable to Hillary on the one thing that matters above all in elections, namely, policy. No matter how many new tapes emerge, no matter how much wink-winking Trump does about certain unnamed “other communities” trying to steal the election, the fact remains that he’d appoint better Supreme Court justices than Clinton would. People like Sean Hannity like to say that #NeverTrumpers are on the hook for every bad policy Clinton implements as president, whether or not they actually oppose those policies (and whether or not she wins in a landslide that would render their opposition to Trump irrelevant). The corollary to that is that lesser-of-two-evils Trump backers like Rubio and Cruz are on the hook for every egregious thing Trump says and does because, whether or not they disagree with those words and deeds, they’ve concluded that character simply doesn’t matter in choosing a president when push comes to shove. If something new drops soon and they end up forced to un-endorse Trump anyway to get away from the scandal, the question will be asked: Why was that tape a bridge too far but the “Access Hollywood” tape wasn’t? Character doesn’t matter until it does? Hope they’ve got their answers ready.

There’ll be plenty of time if and when Rubio is safely reelected for him to qualify his endorsement after the fact. “I was really conflicted, I agonized over it,” yadda yadda. If he plays this right, though, it could pay off for him four years from now. Trumpers will never support him because of amnesty, but by sticking with Trump now, he can tell them if he wins the nomination in 2020 that his loyalty to Trump in the general election after a bitter primary deserves to be repaid in kind by them. Some #NeverTrumpers will be annoyed at him for not denouncing Trump (some on Twitter are annoyed this afternoon, in fact) but they’ll get over it. After this year’s bitter pill, the appetite for an electable candidate among Republicans in 2020 will be ravenous. Even some conservatives who rejected Rubio this year because of immigration will take a second look at him in the interest of finally, finally, finally taking back the White House. Winning his Senate seat is an absolute prerequisite to that, though, and Rubio knows it, so he’s doing what he needs to do.

Here’s Cruz reaffirming his reluctant support for Trump yesterday. Skip to 1:20.