Marco's Last Stand

Marco Rubio may be on his way out of the presidential race, but he’s not going out quietly. For the first time in this campaign, actual dollars are being spent in traditional media to attack Donald Trump -- and it’s mainly Rubio and his allies who are spending it.

Trump began the primary season with a couple of yuge advantages that many didn’t fully appreciate the significance of at the time. Specifically, he started at near 100% name recognition. Trump has been a fixture in our lives, and on our TV sets, since the 1980s. In a political campaign, being known is half the battle. If you think about it, the next most recognizable candidate in the GOP primary was Jeb Bush -- and really it was only his last name that was famous. Outside of Florida, most people wouldn’t know Jeb Bush if he was standing next to them on an elevator. So in a field as large as the one we started with, Trump began with an incredible head start.

The other advantage Trump has enjoyed is the disproportionate amount of media coverage he has garnered, particularly early on. Again, with such a crowded field it was easy for the media to pump up the most recognizable candidate, particularly when that person is a bombastic, controversial, and larger than life caricature of what liberals perceive Republicans to be.

Trump has been very fortunate that the forces within the GOP big tent who find him objectionable as the party’s nominee were slow to recognize the level of support that he might garner and were slow to rally around a more palatable alternative. Many were skeptical (myself included) that Trump could stand the scrutiny once actual voting was underway. Many (myself included) could not have been more wrong.

For this, Jeb Bush bears a lot of the blame. Bush should have suspended his campaign before South Carolina, not after. Also, Right to Rise, the Jeb-supporting Super PAC, spent tens of millions of dollars trying to knock Marco Rubio, and not Donald Trump, from the race. The ad spend weakened Rubio and ironically gave Jeb’s tormentor aid and comfort. A Bush endorsement of Rubio is still being speculated upon but is less likely with each passing day.

Despite the fact Trump came out stronger than just about anyone anticipated, Jennifer Rubin correctly points out that The Donald has been under increasing scrutiny since about February 25th and his winning percentage has indeed taken a hit.  Over the last weekend, Trump went two for five in primaries and caucuses, and the two he won, he won close.

I don’t know if Trump can be stopped, but if he is to be stopped Florida is a key place for it to begin to happen. It was in Florida where, in 2012, Mitt Romney carpet bombed Newt Gingrich with negative ads and dealt a deathblow to Newt’s newly found momentum. And it's in his home state that Marco Rubio hopes to deny Trump any more oxygen and hopefully revitalize his own campaign.