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Rubio's Strategy: Be Steady, Let Everyone Else 'Fizzle'

Courtesy AP Images Courtesy AP Images

Stranger things are already happening in this cycle:

Shining debate performances. Good press. Better poll numbers. And the implosion of a rival candidate.

Marco Rubio is having a moment in the GOP presidential campaign. Again.

But if it’s like Rubio’s other moments — rising to second in May after his official campaign announcement, wall-to-wall press criticizing President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy in December — the confluence of his rise in the polls and the luck of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s early exit from the race probably won’t produce much more than a modest dose of momentum and a few favorable headlines.

Due to Rubio’s relentlessly on-message, penny-pinching campaign style, he’s reluctant to boast about his turn of fortune — or to spend freely targeting his rivals now.

Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager, said he expects plenty of other candidates won't last.

“We need everybody not named Marco to fizzle. That is the plan. We need everybody to slowly fizzle out, and we think they will,” Sullivan said Monday, just as the news of Walker’s withdrawal broke, during a “Meet the Campaign Managers” event sponsored by Google, National Review and YouTube.

In a primary where much of the rule book seems to have been thrown out, it's probably tough to stay calm and run a "normal" campaign. But both Rubio and Ted Cruz have been doing just that, focusing on the long game and not getting caught up in the Trump-induced panic du jour like, say, Jeb Bush has.

There's a very realistic possibility that this approach will work, especially if the other top-tier candidates keep playing the scorched-earth game.

The upside to either Cruz or Rubio prevailing is that the "Harumph Wing" of the GOP will not have been served.

That's good for the party and America.