Marco Rubio has his eyes on Chris Christie, who is increasingly viewed as the dark horse who could, with an impressive showing -- even a victory -- in New Hampshire, become the GOP's surprise establishment favorite. Starting [Tuesday], the super PAC supporting Rubio's presidential bid is set to go up on the air and online with two attack ads against the New Jersey governor in New Hampshire, where Christie has focused all of his efforts. A source with the Rubio PAC says the ads are "a major part of an ongoing multi-million dollar buy in New Hampshire over the next couple of weeks."
Last summer, a super PAC that had been created for the sole purpose of stopping Chris Christie's presidential campaign made an announcement: it was closing up shop. The New Jersey governor's bid for national office was going so poorly, the super PAC no longer saw the point of existing.
About five months later, Christie's standing has improved -- to the point at which he's now relevant enough to attack. National Review reported yesterday on Marco Rubio's super PAC actually investing in attacks targeting the Republican governor.
As attack ads go, these spots are at least honest. The first hammers Christie for his support for Medicaid expansion, as well as the governor's work with President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The second reminds voters about Christie's "Bridgegate" scandal and New Jersey's weak economy on the governor's watch.
Asked for his response yesterday, Christie told Bloomberg TV, "I just wonder what happened to the Marco who so indignantly looked at Jeb Bush and said, 'I guess someone must have convinced you that going negative against me helps you.' I guess that same person must now have convinced Marco that going negative against Chris Christie is what he needs to do."
Stepping back to look at this in the bigger picture, how happy must Christie be at this point to be worthy of attacks?
Keep in mind, according to the most recent polling, Rubio is running second in New Hampshire, slightly ahead of Christie, who's likely appealing to a similar group of mainstream GOP voters. The super PAC attack ads suggest Team Rubio is punching down -- going after a rival he's ostensibly beating -- though the tactics offer a hint that Rubio's internal polling may put Christie in an even more competitive position.
It's a little early to start making firm predictions about what'll happen in the Granite State's primary -- the election is five weeks from today -- but if Rubio finishes behind Christie in New Hampshire, it'll leave the senator in a very awkward position going forward.