Television simply does not care for Marco Rubio.
From his awkward mid-speech water break in 2013 to his communication director’s squabbling with Wolf Blitzer over recent rumors that Rubio advisors want their candidate to drop out, the Florida senator just hasn’t been able to put his best booted foot forward.
Donald Trump isn’t helping.
Looking ahead to next week’s Florida primary, Trump released a pointed attack ad on Monday called “Corrupt Marco.” The ad derides Rubio’s Senate career and claims that he supposedly used state funds to pave his driveway and party in Las Vegas, all while sporting a pretty dismal Senate attendance record. Its final seconds sum up Rubio as “another corrupt, all-talk, no action politician.”
It’s a rare move for Trump, whose campaign is one of the leanest on the market, primarily due to the “earned media” he gets by playing the press for free coverage. When he does buy ads, he’s usually oversold.
With 99 delegates up from grabs in Florida’s March 15 winner-take-all contest, this election is likely the last stand for third-place Rubio, who has only managed to win in Minnesota and Puerto Rico thus far in the primary schedule. Trump leads the Florida senator in the latest polls, in some by as many as 20 points. His latest attack against Rubio may very well cement that advantage.
“Corrupt Marco” continues the anti-establishment bombast that has elevated the famed businessman throughout this election cycle. Though he condemns the backwards dealings of his rivals, Trump’s record is as bad as anyone’s, and probably worse. Just take a look at his alleged long partnership with mob-controlled organizations in New York City, or his appointment of a member of Chinese organized crime to the board of the Taj Mahal casino.
Still, charges of hypocrisy haven’t stuck to Trump. The authenticity drawing in Republican voters is now defined by his booming cult of personality and aggressive insults rather than any sort of political or moral background.
Rubio has also adopted name-calling as of late, mostly by mocking Trump’s small hands (and other extremities), though his jabs come across as more desperate than entertaining or provocative. Relying on a second-rate imitation of his main rival all while allowing Trump to drag his political career through the mud won’t win Rubio much else besides a highly-anticipated concession speech. He’ll never be more than an understudy for the role of the righteous bully, a part for which Trump has been rehearsing his entire life.
Then again, if Rubio could write off his dishonesty as the cost of being a good businessman, he wouldn’t be on the chopping block in the first place.