As the New Hampshire primary gets underway Tuesday, many are wondering if the political future of rising Republican star Marco Rubio was irreparably damaged by a robotic response – given four times – at the GOP debate on Saturday. (See a clip here and below.)
The results of the Tuesday's primary could answer that question. Rubio had gained momentum following a solid showing in the Iowa caucuses, but since Saturday night's debate performance and his defense of it on Sunday, his support in New Hampshire has dropped dramatically.
If polls are to be considered, Rubio's performance in the debate may well have sunk his prospects in Tuesday's primary. According to Politico, an internal poll conducted by a political action committee which supports Ohio Gov. John Kasich showed support for Rubio in New Hampshire dropping significantly. Going into the primary, Rubio was seen as a solid second-place candidate, behind front-runner Donald Trump. Sunday's polling of 500 potential voters showed Rubio in fourth place.
The poll querying potential voters is important in New Hampshire where a voter who is not a declared Republican or Democrat may vote in the primary of his or her choice.
Rubio’s stumble came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attacked the one-term Florida senator for what he says is a record sporting no accomplishments. Christie said Rubio he had not been “involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable,” and compared his level of experience with President Obama’s when he was elected after one term in the Senate.
Rubio responded by attacking Christie’s record in New Jersey saying, “Under Chris Christie's governorship of New Jersey, they've been downgraded nine times in their credit rating. This country already has a debt problem, we don't need to add to it by electing someone who has experience at running up and destroying the credit rating of his state.”
Rubio then answered Christie’s charge of inexperience by saying, “… I would add this. Let's dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world. We don't want to be like the rest of the world, we want to be the United States of America. And when I'm elected president, this will become once again, the single greatest nation in the history of the world, not the disaster Barack Obama has imposed upon us.”
Christie interrupted ABC News anchor David Muir as he attempted to move to the next question, saying, “… You see, everybody, I want the people at home to think about this. That's what Washington, D.C. Does. The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information and then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.”
He went on, “See Marco -- Marco, the thing is this. When you're president of the United States, when you're a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn't solve one problem for one person. They expect you to plow the snow. They expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state's history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I've done.
“None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United States Senate. It's a fine job, I'm glad you ran for it, but it does not prepare you for president of the United States.”
Rubio then repeated the line about Obama as Christie said, “there it is.” Rubio used the line two more times, drawing a reaction from the crowd.
A poll released by Emerson College on Monday showed Rubio fell to fourth place among Republican candidates – the worst he's done in the last seven surveys of the state. Donald Trump remained the front-runner among those who say they will be voting in the Republican primary with 31 percent of the vote. In second place was former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush with 16 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in third place with 13 percent.
Rubio did best in the CNN/WMUR poll taken between Feb. 4 and Feb. 8 (the debate was on Feb.6), getting 17 percent of the vote.
“I would pay them to keep running that clip because that's what I believe passionately,” he said on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos. “It's one of the reasons why I'm not running for re-election to the Senate and I'm running for president."