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Marco Rubio: Why, No, I’m Not Going To Attack Donald Trump. But That Cruz Guy Is Satan.

AP Images AP_205410942298

Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump confer to decide who will take the next cheap shot at Sen. Ted Cruz. (AP Photo/John Bazemore; caption by me)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ve had it with the self-righteous piety that I see emanating from the only campaign still in the race that will literally do anything or say anything to say viable. I don’t say win, because I can’t see that happening. Just to stay viable. That campaign is that of Senator Marco Rubio.

I’m not going to bore you with the blatant and grotesque untruths he has told about the Gang of Eight. Or his casting his vote for government eavesdropping as virtuous and the vote of those members of the House and Senate who voted against it as akin to being terrorist sympathizers. I’m going to start with this interview on the Today Show:

A bit of the interview transcribed:

INTERVIEWER: Senator Rubio on Channel a lot of Republicans and conservatives who like you and support you would have grown increasingly frustrated that you’re not specifically going after Donald Trump, that you see more focused on Ted Cruz their concern seems to be that by the time you get rid of Ted Cruz, if that is in fact the strategy, it’ll be too late…

RUBIO: But first of all I haven’t heard that and I talk to people all day I go to rallies all the time I don’t have any voters begging me to attack and second I understand that think that’s a media narrative a lot of people in the media wanna see republicans attacking each other because it makes for good television I’m not in this race to attack any Republican. I’m more than happy to show different differences and we’ve been able to do it well. I’m responding to texts that’s different about an attack them going to respond to set the record straight and the case of Ted Cruz he is not repeatedly made things up about me and we’ve had to clear the air on those things and point to the fact he’s making things up.

Let me go all Twitchy here. Alex Conant is Rubio’s communications director:

That is Glenn Beck speaking about Ted Cruz.

Or a fund raising email signed by Conant titled “Ted Cruz is a liar.”

What Rubio has said is manifestly a huge freakin lie right on its face. The things his campaign routinely says about Cruz are not designed to “set the record straight.” If fact, the record that Rubio has tried to “set straight” is actually running from his own record and trying, desperately, to mischaracterize the record of others. The only way Rubio’s statement does not rise to the level of an outlandish lie is if we accept that Ted Cruz is not a Republican.

This has not gone unnoticed. Via Bloomberg Politics:

When Marco Rubio called Ted Cruz a liar in the Feb. 13 debate, he was trying to defend himself from Cruz’s portrayal of him as a timid conservative. But the Floridian also ended up helping Donald Trump fend off the one candidate attacking him, as the brash billionaire won his third consecutive blowout victory Tuesday in Nevada.

Echoing Rubio’s attack during that debate, Trump labeled Cruz “the single biggest liar.”

Since then, both Trump and Rubio have pounded away at Cruz’s integrity without attacking each other, and the dual assault has helped blunt Texan’s momentum, according to his own surrogates, after Cruz’s upset victory over Trump in Iowa and an unexpectedly strong third place finish in New Hampshire. Cruz came in third in South Carolina, losing to Rubio by a razor-thin margin, and he trailed in third behind Rubio in Nevada.

According to entrance polls by CNN, the attacks took a toll on Cruz in the final stretch. Republican voters who made up their minds in the last week went for Rubio over Cruz by a two-to-one margin. Most surveys in the run-up to the Nevada caucuses found Cruz leading Rubio for second place.

By working relentlessly to brand Cruz a liar, Rubio has also handed Trump a shield from the only campaign waging regular attacks against him, and also a sword to turn it around on Cruz. The uncoordinated yet similar assaults were especially damaging given that Cruz delivers stump speeches in front of a logo that reads “TrusTED.”

“I think both the Trump and the Rubio campaigns have seized on the narrative that if they say ‘liar’ enough, enough people are going to believe it,” Cruz’s Georgia co-chair Louie Hunter told the Washington Post. “I think that has manifested itself into some people questioning, albeit incorrectly, the real moral character of Senator Cruz and of this campaign.”

In the same stretch beginning on Feb. 13, Trump extended his national lead from 29 percent to 34 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics average of surveys, reversing a downward trend in previous weeks. In the same period, Cruz remained largely flat and Rubio dipped marginally.

As I noted yesterday, what Rubio is doing with Cruz is what he tried, unsuccessfully, to do with Bush. He knows he can’t beat Trump either in debate or at the polling place. So he’s trying to avoid Trump’s attention

As for Rubio and Trump, it sounds like detente will reign a little longer.

Also speaking on NBC’s Today, Trump said of Rubio: “He’s been very nice and I think I’ve been very nice to him.”

If you want to read an hilariously straight-faced attempt to whitewash what Rubio is up to, you need look no further than our sister site HotAir. Keep in mind, back when Cruz was not attacking Trump everyone thought it was a very bad thing, a thing that bordered on treasonous.

…Cruz has been dropping heavy ordnance on Trump for two months, prosecuting the case daily that Trump is a phony conservative and an enemy of the little guy (most recently in Nevada by noting that Trump wants to leave federally owned land in the government’s hands). Result: A favorable rating that’s nosedived and two straight third-place finishes behind Rubio, thanks in part to endless counterattacks from Trump on his eligibility, his likability, his honesty, and so forth. And Cruz is much, much better at attacking an opponent than Rubio is, I think. Rubio’s appeal to his fans (and beyond his fans, given his high favorable ratings) comes from the idea that he’s somehow above this type of nasty politics-as-usual, forever turning his eyes towards the shining city on the hill. Once he goes strongly negative on Trump, that’s at risk. Rubio also looks much younger than he is, which will feed perceptions that a war with Trump is really a match between a man and a boy. There’s no reason to think he’ll succeed in bombing Trump where Cruz failed.

Arguably, then, he’s better off staying sunny, being patient, and hoping that Cruz quits sooner rather than later to force the Trump vs. Not Trump race that represents Rubio’s only shot at winning. If Rubio goes to war with Trump now, his own numbers may fall and suddenly Cruz is back in contention to become the last “Not Trump” standing…

Rubio is engaged in a very cheap variety of character assassination. He’s  trying to tear Cruz down and force him out of the race in time to take on Trump. But that math simply does not work because there is no state where Rubio has chance of winning a primary. Or maybe he is serious that he thinks he doesn’t need to win states to win the nomination.

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