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GOP candidates manage to miss national spotlight on Flint

The "national spotlight" has turned the crisis in Flint into a major scandal. So why haven't Republican presidential candidates noticed?
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio speaks during a town hall meeting at the Fisher Community Center in Marshalltown, Iowa, Jan. 6, 2016. (Photo by Scott Morgan/Reuters)
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio speaks during a town hall meeting at the Fisher Community Center in Marshalltown, Iowa, Jan. 6, 2016.
When Hillary Clinton talked to Rachel last night, the Democratic presidential hopeful argued persuasively that political pressure has forced Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to take action responding to the water crisis in Flint.
"[T]he national spotlight is shining on the horrible situation in Flint," Clinton said. "And it's clear that as attention has increased, so has the governor's apparent willingness to deal seriously with the issue."
That spotlight, however, has apparently gone unnoticed by some on the national campaign trail. Time's Zeke Miller reported late yesterday:

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said he couldn't comment on the water crisis in Flint, Mich., Monday because he was not fully briefed on the situation. [...] "That's not an issue that right now we've been focused on and for me to give you a deeply detailed answer on what the right approach should be on it, other than to tell you in general I believe that the federal government's role in some of these things is largely limited unless it involves a federal jurisdictional issue," Rubio said.

The senator added that he'd "love" to give a real answer, but this is "just not an issue we've been quite frankly fully briefed or apprised of."
In December, a New Hampshire reporter spent some time with Rubio and found "it was like watching a computer algorithm designed to cover talking points. He said a lot, but at the same time said nothing. It was like someone wound him up, pointed him towards the doors and pushed play."
The problem for the young senator is one of programming: if he's confronted with an unfamiliar question, and no one's done the coding, Rubio is left to effectively say, "Flint who?"
And while I can appreciate the fact that no one candidate or campaign can be expected to know everything about everything, it's nevertheless amazing that the national spotlight can shine so brightly on Flint, only to have Team Rubio miss it entirely.
In fairness, the Florida senator isn't the only one. While Clinton took the lead on this issue last week, and Bernie Sanders soon followed, none of the Republican presidential candidates has expressed any real interest in the crisis. Even after President Obama issued an official emergency declaration, his would-be GOP successors barely lifted an eyebrow.
I'll leave it to others to speculate as to why they've ignored the developments, but it probably doesn't help that Michigan's primary isn't until March 8. (Nearly half the country will have already held a presidential caucus or primary before Michigan. If a community in Iowa had been poisoned by their own officials, it's a safe bet Rubio & Co. might have caught wind of it,)
Snyder, meanwhile, talked to National Journal and acknowledged the impact of the scandal.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder conceded Monday that his administration's handling of the Flint water crisis is a stain on his legacy, reflects poorly on his leadership, and is aptly compared to President Bush's mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. "It's a disaster," he said when asked about the comparison some critics have made to the 2005 natural disaster in New Orleans that became a symbol of government mismanagement -- city, state, and federal. "It's clearly a negative on what we've accomplished since I've been governor."

If it's any consolation for the governor, at least Snyder doesn't have to worry about criticism from his party's presidential candidates.