Friday, February 26, 2016

GOP Debate Circus Reflections

Having watched the GOP "debate" last night - a form of self-inflicted torture - I was again stunned by the substance free nature of the performances of the supposed top three candidates all of whom appeared like elementary school (or at best junior high school) school yard braggarts and bullies.  It is frightening that this is what the Republican Party has become.  Some in the pundit class are breathlessly claiming that Marco Rubio was the winner last evening simply because he attacked Donald Trump.  They gloss over the fact that many of his statements were untrue and that his answers lacked details - and that he looked childish much of the time with his smirking behavior.  The only adult on the stage was John Kasich who in contrast to the other candidates tried to tone down the anti-gay rhetoric, perhaps remembering the the GOP's anti-gay stridency likely delivered Virginia and Ohio to Barack Obama in 2012.  In a column in the Washington Post (that has a hint of Maureen Dowd style snark in it), Joe Scarborough throws cold water on those grasping at straws to see Rubio gaining momentum to stop Trump.  Here are excerpts:

Expect the huddled masses of GOP insiders and conservative media commentators to tell us for the ninth time this election season that Marco Rubio had the debate of his life Thursday night and that the young senator’s tour de force will finally bring Donald Trump to his political knees. Some may even be delusional enough to once again utter the word “Marco-mentum”.

What exactly is “Marco-mentum”? If you judge Team Rubio’s hopeful slogan by actual results, it starts with a 4 point loss in Iowa, a 25 point drubbing in New Hampshire, an 10 point defeat in South Carolina, and an embarrassing 22 point loss in Nevada. Never mind that Team Rubio told reporters for six months to ignore any setbacks in the early states since Nevada would be their political “firewall”. In the end, the Silver State results looked more like a dumpster fire that torched The-Future-of-the-Republican-Party’s hopes to win a single state.

If you’re keeping score at home, Sen. Rubio is 0 for 4 and facing a string of Super Tuesday defeats that will extend that losing streak to fifteen. But relief will surely come in Florida, when Rubio returns to his Sunshine State. Right? Well, no.

Thursday’s Quinnipiac poll of likely GOP voters in Florida showed Donald Trump crushing the sitting Florida senator 44 percent to 28 percent. Among the tea party voters who propelled Rubio to the Senate in 2010, Rubio is getting pummeled 54 percent to 14 percent.

Sen. Rubio has shown an amazing ability to spin yarn into gold, celebrating one ugly election defeat after another with concession speeches that owe less to Ronald Reagan than Baghdad Bob. After losing by 22 percent in Nevada, Rubio criticized Donald Trump for “underperforming.” Before that, he distracted media sycophants and desperate money men from the fact he had no real organization in early states by inventing a “3-2-1″ strategy that vanished into thin air after an embarrassing 5th place finish in New Hampshire.

Regardless of what the future holds, Marco Rubio’s campaign for president is effectively over.

His campaign was fueled more by the promise of things to come than the reality of the present. Glowing press reviews and headlines declaring Rubio the future of the Republican Party were never grounded in substance, but instead on the plodding assumption that a political party bleeding support from young voters and Hispanics could only save themselves by embracing a young Hispanic politician — even if that campaign was little more than a bag of cotton candy.

One day, the hype surrounding Mr. Rubio may be replaced by hope grounded in more than crude demographic calculations. But with the upstart senator facing fifteen straight campaign losses without a win, it seems my tough take on Marco Rubio’s presidential prospects may have been far too kind.

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