Rubio Won Saturday Night’s Debate . . . Electorally, Anyway

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Okay, I have to admit it. Saturday night was rough for Marco Rubio.

Even though he did an outstanding job appealing to social conservative voters — Rubio managed to specifically defend life and religious liberty in separate responses — he did take a beating from Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

And, of course, he took a follow-up beating afterward from the mainstream media, as pundits quickly declared Rubio the big loser of the night.

Here’s the thing. Electorally speaking, Rubio won the debate.

Everyone is praising “the Governors” — John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush — but last I checked, there isn’t one candidate running for President named “the Governors.” How will the debate benefit any of them electorally? If anything, their increased support will be divided three ways.

But Rubio? Rubio is a specific candidate. And he received a lot of attention at the debate. If you’re a New Hampshire voter making a decision about next Tuesday, and you watched the debate on Saturday, you made a decision about Marco Rubio.

And I’m sure he won more than a few supporters after his strong answers on issues that actually matter, such as foreign policy, life, religious liberty, and taxes — just to name a few.

We’ve seen this before. Donald Trump had several mediocre debates, where he took repeated hits from candidates and moderators alike, yet he continued his ascent in the polls. In the last debate prior to the Iowa Caucus, Ted Cruz fought off arrows from all over the place — and then went on to outperform the polls and win a decisive victory.

The media and the inside-the-beltway-bubble pundits will be dead wrong on this one. Rubio will surprise people by outperforming in New Hampshire on Tuesday and continue his momentum into South Carolina.

Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for the American Principles Project.