rubio st anselm small

For me the highlight of this election season is the GOP having a handful of candidates who can duke it out with the media… and win… on a regular basis. While Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Lindsey Graham get that stunned-mullet-deer-in-the-headlights-hog-staring-at-a-wristwatch look, many of the others don’t.

The beatdown that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz delivered to CNBC moderators was little short of epic. In fact, entire religions have been founded on much less. Indeed, Rubio is setting the standard for how to field gotcha questions and use the question as a way to get his message out. For instance, someone tried to troll Rubio at a townhall meeting in NH and it didn’t work out well:

Asked Wednesday if a fertilized egg should have legal protections, Senator Marco Rubio parlayed it into an opportunity to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on abortion rights.

“I don’t know what you’re talking—I believe all life is worthy of the protection of our laws. That’s what I believe,” he said at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.

The Republican presidential candidate continued: “I believe it is outrageous that Hillary Clinton supports partial-birth abortion, which is a gruesome process that’s been outlawed in the United States.” He said he looks forward to “exposing” her “radical” and “minority” positions on abortion in the general election.

(The exchange is at 1:06:52 to 1:07:28)

This new generation of candidates has been raised under a different set of rules. They know that the media is their enemy but they also know that they are talking to the American people, not some agenda-driven provocateur. In this exchange, Rubio uses what is obviously some sort of “media tracker” question as a way of attacking Hillary and, in the process, educating people about what she believes. The issue never becomes “Rubio got defensive” or “Rubio has a strange belief” the message is that Rubio’s position is very reasonable and Hillary’s position is so vile, note the emotionally laden language he uses to describe it, that even the questioner can’t defend it. This is the textbook way to handle dishonest questions.

Rubio is the most talented communicator I’ve seen on the national stage since the early days of Bill Clinton. Even then, Clinton looked good because the toughest questions he ever got were “don’t you think it is unfair that you are so handsome and brilliant?” If Rubio gets the nomination, watching him flay Hillary Clinton alive during the debates will be awesome.