Sen. Marco Rubio is scrambling to build momentum for his campaign after enjoying a relatively easy boost in the polls since the last Republican presidential debate.
As he campaigns in early primary states, Rubio has been ratcheting up his political rhetoric and is spending more time talking about issues that conservatives care about.
In Iowa, he joined pastors to pray and talk about Jesus. In New Hampshire, he talks about stopping the Obamacare bailouts of insurance companies and destroying ISIS. On TV, he is calling for putting ISIS tears on YouTube and warning about the dangers of Syrian refugees.
Rubio tangled with Rand Paul in the Fox Business debate over his political record, but bounced up in the polls in the wake of the debate as many in the Republican media and political establishment fell in line.
The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Rubio in second place nationally, but ten points behind Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. The senator from Florida now faces unprecedented pressure to not only sustain his numbers, but increase his share of the vote.
His recent polling bounce siphoned some support from Jeb Bush and picked up a lot of leftover support after Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Gov. Rick Perry exited the race. But his new rivals at the top are much stronger–forcing him to renew his conservative appeal to voters.
His path to the nomination relies on bringing more conservatives to the table as quickly as possible. His campaign is working furiously to sustain his momentum, but they are signaling confidence as they approach the next stage of the race.
“Marco is a next generation leader who can unite conservatives,” Rubio Communications Director Alex Conant tells Breitbart News. “By every metric we care about, we are gaining momentum as more people learn about Marco’s agenda for a new American Century.”
Campaign trips are now taking him beyond just Iowa and New Hampshire and back into states including Alabama and South Carolina as he focuses intently on a conservative message. More importantly, Rubio launched a $20 million ad campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, to boost his recognition.
One of Rubio’s unexpected challenges in New Hampshire is the sudden momentum experienced by Chris Christie. The New Jersey Governor has staked his campaign on the state campaigning vigorously in over 30 town halls across the state. Christie has spent over 50 days in New Hampshire while Rubio has only been there about 11, according to WMUR.
Christie is arguably more personal in his smaller town hall events, pacing himself with the crowd and speaking directly to issues they care about. He also spends an exorbitant amount of time focusing on his personal story and his family who made him the leader he is today.
His careful attention to New Hampshire paid off as he won the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, who appeared to have little patience for freshman senators like Rubio, Cruz or even the more libertarian Rand Paul.
Other media establishment figures who are still skeptical of Rubio have praised Christie’s gravitas and serious commitment to law and order as well as national security, particularly in response to the attacks on Paris.
Although polls haven’t reflected Christie’s new momentum, it’s likely that he will receive some kind of bounce in New Hampshire soon. After missing the main debate stage during the Fox Business debate, the CNN criteria will include a nod to early state polls, making a comeback more likely.
In recent interviews, Christie appeared optimistic about his chances against Rubio deriding him as “a first term senator who’s never had to make any significant decisions in his career.”
Ted Cruz also benefited from a strong debate performance, and is challenging Rubio for conservative support. While Rubio has earned impressive endorsements from the Republican establishment, Cruz appears to be winning the hearts of conservatives.
Since then the Rubio campaign has been strafing Cruz on immigration and national defense, taking advantage of his campaign promise to follow Reagan’s 11th commandment by not attacking a fellow Republican.
Rubio’s recent attacks on Sen. Ted Cruz are not only an attempt to stop his momentum in early states, but to emphasize that the Senator who many believe to be the toughest conservative is just as guilty of political positioning as the rest of the field.
Cruz, however, didn’t take the attacks lightly, striking back in a media interview reminding voters that Rubio one of the Washington neocons that backed President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s invasions into Libya.
His staffers are now highlighting what they have dubbed the “Shubio bill,” referring to his efforts to pass immigration reform with the Gang of Eight which included Chuck Schumer.
Fight Night In Vegas
By the time Rubio gets to the CNN debate in Las Vegas later this month, he will face higher political stakes. Once content to skate by in early debates while the media focused on Bush and Trump, he now has to prove he is worthy of the spotlight.
After rhetorically trashing Cruz on the trail, he will have back up his attacks when he faces the Texas senator on the debate stage. And at some point, he will have to stand up to frontrunner Donald Trump if he still wants the Republican presidential nomination.