Florida Sen. (Rep.) Marco Rubio has become a marked man in the state of New Hampshire and he is quickly learning that his third place finish in Iowa has made him the early favorite on the establishment side of the Republican race for the 2016 presidential nomination. While, you might think that the candidates would be chasing down Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won in Iowa or Donald Trump who at least for the moment remains the favorite to win Tuesday night’s first in the nation primary, it is Rubio that is taking the heat.
With Trump and Cruz battling for the Washington outsider role and the anti-establishment position Rubio is facing heavy heat from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who likes to refer to the junior senator from Florida as “the boy in the bubble,” suggesting he gives the same speech no matter where he goes.
On Morning Joe this week former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum appeared to tout his endorsement for Rubio. But when asked to name one single accomplishment that Rubio achieved in his one term in the United States Senate, he was at a loss and could not name a single thing.
Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is campaigning for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, said Rubio could not win a general election because of his positions on abortion and immigration. Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich both said the country needed an experienced commander in chief, in what was a clear shot at Rubio, a first-term senator.
Rubio said he was leaving his fate in the Republican U.S. presidential primary contests in God’s hands, and added that he hoped his children would be proud of him “no matter how this turns out. I just want to do as well as we possibly can here in New Hampshire,” Rubio told reporters.
After emerging as the leading “establishment” candidate competing with Trump and Cruz, Rubio faces high stakes in New Hampshire. His elevated stature in the race has given his rivals added incentive to attack him.
The state is a “must win,” for Trump who if he takes New Hampshire can just say that Iowa picked yet another loser. But a second place finish by Rubio as the race heads to the south could quickly make this a three person race with Cruz being positioned well in South Carolina and Texas. Rubio would clearly be the establishment candidate.
But if the three governors, Kasich, Christie and Bush could somehow get Rubio pushed down to at least fourth then the race would remain wide open. For the GOP the worst case scenario would be a Trump win with Cruz or Rubio landing in the second and third spots.
If Kasich, Christie and Bush are to remain in the conversation with any chance of gaining the nomination they must stop Rubio in New Hampshire.