Chris Christie Turns Marco Rubio's Attack Line Against Him During The GOP Debate, But Did You Catch It?
Whew, that was a lot, huh? Between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz spitting fire in each other's directions, Ben Carson's sleepy stumbling, and Jeb Bush's chronic slumping, there was plenty to hold your attention. But there was one interesting moment that may have flown a little under the radar ― when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turned Marco Rubio's own attack against him, echoing the Florida senator's withering critique of Bush from months earlier.
Did you catch it? It happened right after Rubio went in on Christie, accusing him of holding a slew of inconvenient, insufficiently conservative positions. But Christie was prepared, reaching back into recent debate history to use Rubio's own words against him.
You might remember where this all started, if you've been following the debates so far. During the third Republican face-off, Rubio delivered a serious rhetorical wound to Bush, his (ostensibly former) friend and mentor. When Bush attempted to chide Rubio for his poor attendance record in the Senate during his campaign ― he derisively compared the demands of being a senator to a "French work week" ― Rubio devastatingly deconstructed the attack: "The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."
It was a particularly effective and uncomfortable moment for Bush, mainly because the moment Rubio said it, anyone could implicitly see the truth in it. The moment the words "someone has convinced you" crossed his lips, anyone listening could already feel the truth of it ― you just imagine Bush in his sweaty, panicked campaign war room, bouncing ideas off highly-paid consultants, searching for some way, any way for him to reclaim a shred of his lost relevance.
There's no denying that the line didn't have quite the same sting when delivered by Christie to Rubio. That's perhaps mainly because the two have no real background with one another in Republican politics, while Bush was a genuine booster and proponent of Rubio's dating back to his time in the Florida governor's office ― in other words, Rubio's jab at Bush was more of a pupil-betrays-master scenario, which gives it an emotional charge that Christie vs. Rubio can't really match.
But it was still a crafty, well-played line on Christie's part. When Rubio accused him of supporting gun control, Common Core, and the nomination of Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (that last one, at least, is entirely and undeniably true), Christie deployed a very familiar response.
You know, I stood on the stage and watched Marco rather indignantly look at Governor Bush, and say, 'Someone told you that because we're running for the same office, that criticizing me will get you to that office.' It appears that the same someone has been whispering in old Marco's ear, too.
Needless to say, Rubio didn't seem altogether pleased with the exchange, and it underscored a night of increased tension between the two establishment challengers ― Christie also shut down a later attempt by Rubio to add a point about tax policy after his time was up, saying, "Nah, ya already had your chance Marco, you blew it!"
Assuming everybody in the main stage debate hangs on until the next one, which seems likely for Rubio and Christie, at the very least, it'll be fascinating to see if these hostilities continue. If you're curious to see how the next GOP showdown shakes out, it's scheduled for Jan. 28 and will be hosted by Fox News.