Howard Dean in 2004 lost the Iowa caucus. He came in third place, just like Marco Rubio did in 2016. But he committed what is now considered the ultimate in unforced errors: The Dean Scream. The scream didn’t cost him the primary, but it destroyed any possibility of a comeback, and effectively killed Dean’s political relevance, forever.
First baseman Bill Buckner’s between-the-legs flub costing the Red Sox the World Series in 1986 tarred him for life. But Boston lost because they let the Mets tie the game in the bottom of the 8th, and they squandered a 5-3 lead in the 10th. The game wasn’t lost solely because of Buckner, but everyone remembers the unforced error. There was one more game in the series, but the Red Sox never recovered from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Marco Rubio hasn’t committed the Dean Scream or Buckner’s Between-The-Legs. If he had, he’d be finished: Late night talk show fodder. But he’s flirting with it.
I was very unkind to Rubio, in effect calling for him to lead or get out of the race. I like Rubio. I’ve always said he’s my “heart” candidate, and Cruz is where my head is at. If there were a fusion of both of them, I believe that person would win the presidency in a landslide.
One advantage Ted Cruz enjoys is his years of debate have made him into a stone-cold machine in staying on point while remaining engaging. Chris Christie also has some of that quality, but could not overcome his less-than-perfect conservative pedigree. In other words, Christie is a mutt when the electorate wants a purebred.
Of all the candidates, Marco Rubio may well be best equipped with the tools to be president. But his near-fatal flaw is failing to keep his own counsel and opening himself to influence a bit too much. Nothing moves Ted Cruz. Nothing moves Donald Trump. (Their essential difference is that they are pursuing different goals–Trump wants a “winning deal” at the cost of any principle, while Cruz wants principle at any cost, period.)
Rubio is the third way: principle achieved by winning deals. That’s what a president does. But the unforced errors are quickly making him easy pickings for Jeb Bush and Right to Rise, along with the death of a thousand cuts.
Yes, I was unkind to Rubio. But the media and the electorate was positively merciless to Howard Dean, and Boston fans still haven’t forgiven Bill Buckner. If I’m hard on Rubio, it’s because I want him to understand just how cold it is once you make that last unforced error and step outside the warmth of your cocoon of support. It’s really cold and heartless.
If this was football, and I was Rubio’s coach, I’d pull him for a down or two and tell him to get his head on straight. But politics has no such breaks. My message to Marco Rubio: if you want to win, then don’t play to lose. Give us more of what we saw Jan. 14, the last time you met Cruz in South Carolina.
RUBIO: Ted Cruz, you used to say you supported doubling the number of green cards, now you say that you’re against it. You used to support a 500 percent increase in the number of guest workers, now you say that you’re against it. You used to support legalizing people that were here illegally, now you say you’re against it. You used to say that you were in favor of birthright citizenship, now you say that you are against it.
And by the way, it’s not just on immigration, you used to support TPA, now you say you’re against it. I saw you on the Senate floor flip your vote on crop insurance because they told you it would help you in Iowa, and last week, we all saw you flip your vote on ethanol in Iowa for the same reason.
That is not consistent conservatism, that is political calculation. When I am president, I will work consistently every single day to keep this country safe, not call Edward Snowden, as you did, a great public servant. Edward Snowden is a traitor. And if I am president and we get our hands on him, he is standing trial for treason.
And one more point, one more point. Every single time that there has been a Defense bill in the Senate, three people team up to vote against it. Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. In fact, the only budget you have ever voted for, Ted, in your entire time in the Senate is a budget from Rand Paul that brags about how it cuts defense.
Here’s the bottom line, and I’ll close with this. If I’m president of the United States and Congress tries to cut the military, I will veto that in a millisecond.
Rubio hit hard, and Cruz drew boos in his response. Now, he has resorted to accusing Cruz of voter deception in Iowa. It didn’t work for Carson in NH, why would it work for Rubio?
My advice–no, warning–to Rubio: stick to the real issues, not campaign accusations. Don’t let yourself be trolled, and avoid another unforced error. Otherwise, this campaign will be very short-lived.