Marco Rubio doesn’t know how to attack Trump, either

It’s not just Mitt Romney hand-wringing over tax returns. Marco Rubio, literally one day after saying that he wasn’t interested in attacking Trump, launched a two-pronged attack against Trump that is in all likelihood doomed.

Here’s the attack, as documented by the Washington Post:

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio has attacked Donald Trump by name, criticizing the candidate he called the GOP front-runner for not strongly opposing the federal health care law and for suggesting he could be a moderator in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

At a Houston rally, the Florida senator said “the front-runner in this race, Donald Trump, has said he’s not going to take sides on Israel versus the Palestinians because he wants to be an honest broker.”

Rubio said there was no such thing “because the Palestinian Authority, which has strong links to terror, they teach little kids, 5-year-olds, that it’s a glorious thing to kill Jews.”

He also named Trump in accusing him of thinking “parts of Obamacare are pretty good” drawing boos.

As Greg Sargent notes, these attacks are utterly conventional, and Trump is not a conventional opponent. His candidacy has been defined by taking things the Republican Party thought it knew about itself and its voters and turning them on their heads. This being the case, attacking Trump for liking certain parts of Obamacare could be a dubious strategy, as we’ve known for a while now that lots of people like certain parts of Obamacare. Trump has said repeatedly that he will repeal the law itself and replace it with “something terrific,” but whenever he’s come close to specifying what that “something terrific” will be, it’s sounded closer to single payer than anything else. The Republican base doesn’t actually have a problem with government intervention in the health insurance market. It has a problem with the letters O-B-A-M-A, and Trump’s made the necessary propitiations on that front.

As for the Israel barb, Rubio’s in somewhat uncharted territory. Yes, Republican voters are big into Israel and want a candidate who will unabashedly take its side, but the United States’ official position is that of an “honest broker.” As casually anti-Semitic as Donald Trump often is, he’s the only candidate in either party who’s pointed out that if Israel wants peace, they’re going to have to give something up in the dealmaking process. That may not be a very Republican thing to say, but it’s very, well, honest. This has left Rubio in the odd position of attacking Trump for not upholding a lie at the core of American foreign policy. Even if Republican voters agree with Rubio that Israel is good and Palestinians are bad, they may not fault a candidate for trying to be, in Rubio’s own words, an honest broker.

Expect Rubio to try both of these attacks in tonight’s debate, and expect both of them to fail.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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