Campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, wait for the field to thin itself out and be in position to be the clear establishment candidate.
Well the other members of the field who want to be the establishment candidate are going after Rubio with a vengeance. They hope to weaken Rubio before he can get rolling and he has a giant target on his back.
The group led by his onetime mentor former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are ramping up their attacks on Rubio. They all feel that Rubio is vulnerable but at the same time they also are aware that too many voters he seems to be the safest candidate.
His fellow candidates know that his strength is his political potential. Let’s face it no one attempts to take another candidate out of the race if they don’t feel in some way threatened by him or her. In the case of Rubio, many observers believe that his poll ratings, which show him in third place nationally and in the first caucus state of Iowa, underplay his strength.
They all know that for the moment he is the leading candidate with some appeal to the GOP establishment. He clearly is favored by the old guard of the GOP over front-runner Donald Trump or the second-placed Cruz. That means other candidates who are dependent upon centrist support need to cut Rubio down if they are to stand any chance of emerging as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.
Trump and Cruz are in very good shape to score early victories and if things break their way as the state polls seem to be indicating come the end of March it might just be a two person race. That is why the GOP establishment wants a clear cut alternative to Trump and Cruz, a role that Rubio seems to covet but he has company.
Rubio’s rivals are working overtime to point out every major and minor flaw the candidate has to make sure he has to use more resources, spend more money and plays defense for a while.
According to The Hill Tuesday, Right to Rise, the main super-PAC supporting Bush, released an ad suggesting Rubio had missed “important national security briefings” to attend fundraisers. “Politics first that’s the Rubio way,” the ad’s narrator intoned.
The ad did exactly what it was supposed to do and that was put Rubio on the defensive. He spent time explaining why the senator could not attend the meeting. Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Christie and Sen. Cruz all continue to attack his voting record in the Senate.
At this point looking at the state primary map between February 1st, the Iowa Caucus and the Florida vote on March 15th over 20 states will have voted. At the moment Rubio does not lead in any of the pre Florida caucus or primary states and of course that could change.
However, with so many of the establishment candidates still in the hunt and people like Gov. Christie who looks to do very well in New Hampshire, the Rubio camp might want to re-think the long game and push hard for some early wins.