He’s in a hurry, but he is already running out of time.
As the Iowa caucuses draw closer, Senator Marco Rubio has become a more of a machine than ever – disciplined, focused, using every opportunity left to talk to voters about his message.
Nothing made it more clear than the Fox News debate last night: His mission is to spread his message as quickly as possible in the time he has left.
In the 13 minutes and 31 seconds he had on screen during the debate, Rubio spoke about 3,100 words as he argued for his electability.
Contrast that with Cruz’s speaking style. The Texan spoke roughly the same amount of time–13 minutes and 11 seconds–but only used about 2,300 words.
During the debate, Rubio wanted to make these things clear. I can unite the party and defeat Hillary Clinton and I am a man of faith.
“If Iowa helps make me the Republican nominee, I will defeat Hillary Clinton,” he said during the debate. “Hillary doesn’t want to run against me, but I cannot wait to run against her. And I cannot wait to earn the opportunity to do it because she cannot be the president of the United States.”
That’s a line he has delivered everywhere in Iowa on the campaign trail, insisting that he is smartest choice.
As I noted earlier, Rubio also used his debate time to emphasize that he was a man of faith. He referred frequently to the Judeo-Christian values that founded the United States and his relationship with Jesus Christ.
“When I’m president, I can tell you this, my faith will not just influence the way I’ll govern as president, it will influence the way I live my life, Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this earth for 80 years, but to live an eternity with my creator. And I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do,” he explained.
When attacked during the debate, Rubio wasted little time trying to dissect the question or counter the argument, but rapidly voiced what he did stand for, and what voters would get as president.
After debate moderator Megyn Kelly opened up with barrage of media clips of Rubio promising to be tough on immigration, he blitzed back with his entire immigration message as the moderators sat silent. In just one answer he made the following points:
- We’re going to keep ISIS from entering America
- We’re going to enforce our immigration laws
- We’re going to hire more border agents
- We’re going to increase border fences and walls
- We’re going to have mandatory E-Verify
- We’re going to have mandatory entry/exit system
- We’re not going to depart 12 million people but they don’t automatically get citizenship
By the time he is finished with that list, it’s hard to tell whether he still supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Each time he was criticized for shifting his position on immigration, he kicked up dust on that person’s record to show their different strategies on the issue. He went toe to toe with Cruz, accusing him for wanting to legalize illegal immigrants and swapped blows with Jeb Bush, who no longer supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Rubio, however, still supports a conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but he’s not wasting too much time explaining why.
Rubio didn’t waste his debate time launching attacks either. When given the opportunity to expand his attacks on Chris Christie, Rubio baffled moderators after he directed them to his website and launched a speech about America and his personal faith.
When reporters asked communications director Alex Conant why, he replied that Rubio didn’t want to “waste valuable time.”
The morning after the debate, Rubio hit the trail running as part of his increased pace on the campaign trail. This week alone, Rubio scheduled seventeen different events in more than a dozen different cities in Iowa. His pitch to voters has gotten more urgent, focusing on the practical decision that has to be made as the election approaches. He is also spending more time meeting voters face to face after the events, shaking hands, signing campaign material, and taking pictures with voters.
Speaking at a rally in Burlington, Iowa, this morning Rubio urged voters to choose the candidate most likely to win, not the one they liked the most.
“Look, I know some of you have people that you really like, there are people in this race I really like, but this is no longer about just who we really like, this has to be also about who can win, because we can’t afford to lose,” he said.
He also insisted that “no objective person viewing this” would come to any other conclusion that Hillary Clinton feared running against him more than any other candidate.
“If you’re here today, and you’ve been thinking about some of the other candidates that you know you really like, but you know, maybe they’re not going to have chance to win or whatever, I respect that, I really do, but I’d ask you to reconsider,” he said. “We need your vote.”