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Rubio's latest challenge: putting a positive spin on failure

The Washington Post reported, simply as a matter of fact, that the Florida senator's candidacy is "all but doomed."
Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. pauses while addressing CPAC in National Harbor, Md., Saturday, March 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Over the weekend, Marco Rubio received a little good news: he won the Puerto Rico primary yesterday with ease. The Florida senator also received some bad news: the victory in Puerto Rico was literally the only good news.
There were four nominating contests on Saturday, and Rubio was trounced in each of them. As we discussed yesterday, the senator lost by 20 points in Kentucky, and on "Super Saturday," that was the race in which he was the most competitive. Rubio finished fourth in Maine where he failed to meet a low delegate-eligible threshold; he failed to reach 20% support in any state; and he lost by 31 points in Kansas -- where he actually tried to win. When we include Puerto Rico, Rubio has now lost 18 out of 20 contests, and in most of those losses, Rubio finished third or worse.
How bad is it for the darling of the Republican establishment and the Beltway media? The Washington Post published a front-page piece on Rubio's candidacy overnight that reads quite a bit like an obituary. The headline was itself pretty brutal: "Bad strategy, poorly run campaign are killing Marco Rubio's chances."

Sensing an opportunity for an upset victory, Marco Rubio spent most of Friday in Kansas, where he picked up a series of high-profile endorsements that he hoped could help thrust him into contention. Instead, he finished a disappointing third, repeating the same pattern as in some Super Tuesday states earlier last week: a big, last-minute push, notable endorsements and a thud of a finish.

The article notes, simply as a matter of fact, that the Florida senator's candidacy is "all but doomed."
Rubio and his team, at least on the surface, maintain nothing but confidence. Responding to his latest losses, the senator told reporters yesterday, "These states have a certain profile that other candidates do better in."
The problem, of course, is that "these states" now appears to includes states in the South, Northeast, Midwest, and West.
Rubio added on Saturday, after learning of his latest debacles, "Tonight we will have more delegates than we did last night." While that's technically true, by this reasoning, picking up literally one delegate is enough to pass his threshold for success.
At another moment, Rubio argued, "We knew this would be the roughest period of the campaign, given the makeup of the electoral map." First, if Rubio considers nearly half the country "the roughest period," that's not a good sign. Second, his campaign actually expected to win states like South Carolina and Nevada, making this post-hoc rationalization for failure that much less persuasive.
At one point on Saturday night, Rubio's communications director was actually reduced to highlighting a handful of states from Super Tuesday that Rubio lost, but managed to avoid third place, as evidence of the campaign's health.
I've seen some comparisons of Rubio to Baghdad Bob, hilariously pretending not to notice the disaster unfolding around him, and while that has merit, I'm actually partial to Rubio's parallel with the Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail": Rubio was the seemingly invincible foe, whose veneer of strength was quickly exposed as a joke in the midst of a farcical comedy.
As for Rubio's choice of tactics -- it was his choice last week to question the size of Donald Trump's penis and suggest the Republican frontrunner urinates on himself -- the senator's latest defense is that he only made the comment "one time, to a guy who needs to be stood up to." 
The question now is whether Rubio could have stood up to Trump in a way that wasn't quite so vulgar -- or so damaging to his campaign's brand. As the Tampa Bay Times noted over the weekend, plenty of voters noticed Rubio's descent into the gutter, and they weren't impressed.

"I used to really like Marco Rubio but when he did what he did last week -- with the hands stuff and just going after Trump one thing after another, I said this guy's a dirt bag. Wait a minute Rubio, you're like 44 and Trump's a billionaire, and you're going to insult this guy's intelligence? I think he's going to really suffer from that," said James Berwich, 50, of Vero Beach. St. Cloud resident David Turnbull, 66, said he was stunned by how Rubio suddenly became so juvenile in his attacks. "I really liked Marco until the last week and a half when he became a blithering idiot. The comments, the innuendo and the outright third-grade attacks, I wouldn't support him for dogcatcher anymore," he said.