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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Stripped of momentum, vulnerable Marco Rubio heads into South Carolina



Rick Santorum started it. Chris Christie kicked down the door. And the voters of New Hampshire finished the job.

A disastrous series of events in New Hampshire engulfed Marco Rubio and sent him to South Carolina stripped of momentum and vulnerable.

Rubio tried to smile through the aftermath of his robotic answers at the Saturday debate. He defended his performance and doubled down on his message so hard that he had another scripted moment Monday evening in Nashua.

But Tuesday night, after finishing fifth behind Jeb Bush and others in the primary, he could no longer spin.

"Our disappointment is not on you. It's on me," he said. "I did not do well on Saturday night so listen to this: that will never happen again."

All politicians practice lines and it's early to declare Rubio fatally wounded.

But the timing was ugly, just three days before New Hampshire voters went to the polls. At best it made Rubio look robotic. At worst it suggested he was not prepared for the tense situations that confront the commander in chief. He froze. He sweated.

It killed the aura of momentum his campaign assiduously cultivated and that Rubio hammered home again and again. "When I'm the nominee..."

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[Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 8:16pm]


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