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Christie Calls Rubio Out On His 'Scripted' Campaign Rhetoric


One big takeaway from the Republican presidential debate over the weekend is that Marco Rubio is now a target. He was hit hard. But the first-term Florida senator is still turning out big crowds with the New Hampshire primary now a day away. Here's NPR's Asma Khalid.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Marco Rubio sounded like he was on repeat Saturday during the debate on ABC News.


MARCO RUBIO: Let's dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing...

...This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing...

...This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing.

KHALID: And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called him out.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: There it is, the memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.

RUBIO: That's the reason why this campaign is so important...

KHALID: The pundits said Rubio had fumbled. But at a Super Bowl party Sunday night, the Florida senator was on the offense. In fact, all day Sunday Rubio essentially used that same Obama line again with no shame.


RUBIO: Look, I said this last night. I am going to say this every chance that I get, Barack Obama is trying to change America.

KHALID: It's unclear what damage the debate might really do to Rubio. He brought out hundreds at every campaign stop.

CATHY WIENZEK: I know he got a little beat up, but he stayed on message (laughter).

KHALID: Cathy Wienzek says she still plans on voting for Rubio. She thinks the media is overblowing the situation.

WIENZEK: And he was just talking about Obama, and that's kind of what he feels about - and they always say that stuff over and over and over again. So of course he's going to say it over and over again.

KHALID: Some folks, like Tom Hunt, told me Rubio was being bullied unfairly.

TOM HUNT: He got taken by a very good prosecutor.

KHALID: Others, like Hunt's wife Dianne, said Rubio showed his leadership.

DIANNE HUNT: I don't feel it was a fumble at all. I think it was unfortunate he didn't have an attack back. But we're not looking for someone who's able to necessarily attack. We're electing what he, I think, stands for.

KHALID: But there are some undecided voters, like Allison Maynard, who say the debate is making them question Rubio's credentials.

ALLISON MAYNARD: I think that he kind of repeated himself a lot and didn't have good answers.

KHALID: After hearing Rubio in person, Maynard had a simple response.

MAYNARD: Better than the debate.

KHALID: Whether that's enough, who knows? Especially because while Rubio repeating his Obama critique on Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was repeating his Rubio critique.


CHRISTIE: He's just not ready, and we can't afford to do this again.

KHALID: Of course, with all this Monday morning-quarterbacking, it's worth remembering New Hampshire voters go to the polls tomorrow. And Rubio is still bringing out huge crowds. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Manchester, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a political correspondent for NPR who co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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