Panic has set in after golden boy Marco Rubio betrayed the Republican establishment’s hopes and dreams by coming in a weak fifth in the New Hampshire primary after a humiliating debate performance Saturday night. Rubio’s campaign is not exactly sending signals of calm reassurance that everything will be fine:
"We very easily could be looking at May — or the convention," [campaign manager Terry] Sullivan said aboard Rubio's charter jet from New Hampshire to South Carolina on Wednesday. "I would be surprised if it's not May or the convention."
One crappy finish and they’re talking brokered convention. Maybe this is supposed to look like “we’re in it for the long haul” resolve, but there are a lot more angles from which it looks like “we have no real plan for victory other than staying in and hoping the rest of the field collapses, too.” And Republican elected officials and operatives alike are casting doubt on Rubio’s ability to go the distance:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an outspoken conservative who is neutral in the race, said “it looks like” people are reassessing Rubio’s chances.
“He had big momentum out of Iowa, and it wasn’t maintained,” he said. “It’s funny how people can peak and never recover.”
Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist who ran Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign, said Rubio needs a miracle.
“A fifth place finish in New Hampshire means effectively he’s bleeding out,” Schmidt said of Rubio on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
New Hampshire was supposed to be where a strong Rubio performance would force some of his establishment competitors, like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, out of the race, allowing him to scoop up their donors and support. Instead, both Bush and Kasich finished ahead of him and go on with greater strength—Kasich’s second place presumably gives him the oomph to get through an expected weak finish in South Carolina—and, while Chris Christie did drop out, it’s unlikely Rubio will be the one to benefit. Especially not with his campaign running around all “OMG, May or a brokered convention.”