Marco Rubio had a challenging night at the Fox Business debate, but he fought hard to diminish some of the damage after Ted Cruz challenged him on his record.
He dodged the tough question from Fox Business debate moderator Maria Bartiromo, who reminded him that the “Gang Of Eight” bill would have increased green card workers by 10 million in 10 years.
In response, Rubio insisted that the discussion has changed, since it’s now clear that terrorists were using the nation’s immigration system against the United States.
“So you’re thinking has changed,” Bartiromo suggested. But Rubio wouldn’t admit it, calling it a “dramatically different issue” since the rise of ISIS.
Ted Cruz jumped in to remind viewers that terrorists were taking advantage of the lax immigration enforcement and visas long before the Gang of Eight bill – and that Rubio was working with Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer on the bill offering not only amnesty for illegal immigrants but also to increase the numbers of refugees coming into the country.
Rubio appeared to be on the ropes when he launched a broadside attack against Cruz. He returned to his immigration attacks on Cruz, but also accused him of multiple political shifts supporting cuts in defense, changing his mind on crop insurance and ethanol votes, and even praising Edward Snowden.
“That is not consistent conservatism, that is political calculation,” Rubio stated, but it was a line that could have easily applied to his own positions on immigration.
“I appreciate your dumping your oppo-research folder on the debate stage,” Cruz grinned as he began a response.
“No, it’s your record,” Rubio shot back, a line that his supporters cheered.
Marco Rubio’s policy weaknesses showed, but he was competent enough to come back hard at his opponents.
Rubio’s campaign staff was quick to clip video of his exchange with Cruz, declaring their boss as the winner – and his supporters rallied around that message.
Other than Cruz’s attacks, Rubio delivered a strong performance. He argued with Donald Trump about higher tariffs on China, raised questions about Chris Christie’s record in New Jersey, gave a solid answer on guns and the Second Amendment, and told Americans exactly what he would do as president. He also inserted himself into the debate on Cruz’s citizenship with a zinger about “Court TV.”
But in the exchange with Cruz, he looked desperate after throwing the kitchen sink at his opponent before exiting the debate stage. When Rubio gets caught up in a debate brawl with his fell senators he looks less like the transformational leader his campaign is trying to project and more like another inexperienced, bickering politician.