Perhaps it was because the promised pancake breakfast was canceled or that he was a half-hour late, but Marco Rubio‘s first appearance before New Hampshire voters was flat compared to other events in the Granite State the past week.
Speaking less than 12 hours after his worst debate performance as a presidential candidate, Florida’s junior senator quickly remarked on the elephant in the room as he took the stage a little past 10 a.m. That, of course, was his stunningly bizarre repeated responses – about Barack Obama knowing exactly what he is doing to the country – to a hammering from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Rubio said everyone has been criticizing him for saying the same thing three or four times in a row, but he doubled down in Londonderry, saying, “I’m going to say them again.”
A substantial crowd gathered to see Rubio, who had been on the ascendancy since his second-place finish in Iowa last week. The few folks FloridaPolitics.com spoke with said they thought too much was being made about his flub.
“I think the media is trying to make a little more hype of it,” said Nashua resident Jennifer Maurhoff. “They’re looking for a big story. ‘Oh, he did so bad,’ because he did so well in Iowa, and I don’t think that’s fair.” She said the average undecided voter may not have been watching a two-and-a-half hour debate on a Saturday night, and thought coverage focusing on the Christie exchange was a poor representation of the entire evening.
A Londonderry Republican named Jack who supports Rubio said he was “ganged up on” because of his impressive performance in the Iowa caucus. However, he didn’t sugarcoat what happened to his favorite candidate Saturday night.
“Marco probably did not have his best debate, but if you take it all in total with the prior debates, I think it’s all positive,” he said.
“I think Christie had a lot of great points, but he messed up, too,” said Robert Carley from New London, Connecticut. He mentioned Christie’s decision not return to the Garden State when it was rocked by a major snowstorm two weeks ago, a moment that Rubio hit him with during the debate. Carley said that he’s a born-again Christian, and likes how religious Rubio appears to be. He also said he hadn’t made up his mind among Rubio, Christie and Donald Trump.
Despite the pounding Rubio has taken the press in the past 24 hours, Team Rubio is staying on message, including the candidate boasting to George Stephanopolous earlier on ABC: “We raised more money last night in the first hour that debate than any other debate.”
Among Rubio’s biggest critics is the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, which issued a statement after the debate lambasting Rubio for his robotic responses:
“The Rubiobot got stuck on repeat, offering nothing but canned talking points, and still had no answer when challenged on his lack of accomplishments and failure to show up for work. He needed a big night tonight, but a system glitch had him short-circuiting.”
Two members of the group created crude costumes and stood outside the entrance of Londonderry Middle School event calling themselves “Marco Roboto.”