Marco Rubio unleashed a vicious attack on Ted Cruz.

Marco Rubio Bum-Rushes Ted Cruz

Marco Rubio Bum-Rushes Ted Cruz

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Jan. 15 2016 12:14 AM

Marco Rubio Bum-Rushes Ted Cruz

But is it enough to help the Florida senator rise in the polls? 

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Sens. Marco Rubio (left) and Ted Cruz at the Republican presidential debate on Jan. 14, 2016 in South Carolina.

Photos by Scott Olson/Getty Images and Timothy A. Clary/Reuters

At some point after the Fox Business debate was supposed to end, Sen. Marco Rubio, who had been having another one of his solid debates that wouldn’t change anything, decided to light up Sen. Ted Cruz. Because the clock was running out, Cruz wasn’t able to fully respond. It was effective in the moment. Will it be enough to move Rubio’s not bad, not great, but definitely stuck poll numbers?

Jim Newell Jim Newell

Jim Newell is a Slate staff writer.

Cruz was going on again about the many nefarious provisions of the 2013 “Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill,” specifically the one granting Barack Hussein Obama permission to allow Syrian ISIS terrorists into the country to behead everyone in the Heartland. Rubio decided not just to respond to that specific point, but to unload everything he had on Cruz:

Ted Cruz, you used to say you supported doubling the number of green cards; now you say you're against it. You used to support a 500 percent increase in the number of guest workers; now you say that you’re against it. You used to support legalizing people that were here illegally; now you say you’re against it. You used to say that you were in favor of birthright citizenship; now you say that you are against it. … [I]t’s not just on immigration. You used to support TPA; now you say you’re against it. I saw you on the Senate floor flip your vote on crop insurance because they told you it would help you in Iowa. And last week we all saw you flip ... for the same reason. That is not consistent conservatism. That is political calculation.
When I am president, I will work consistently every single day to keep this country safe, not call Edward Snowden, as you did, a great public servant as you did. Edward Snowden is a traitor. And if … we get our hands on him, he is standing trial for treason. … Every single time that there has been a defense bill in the Senate, three people team up to vote against it: Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz. In fact, the only budget you have ever voted for, Ted, in your entire time in the Senate is a budget from Rand Paul that … cuts defense. Here's the bottom line … if I'm president of the United States and Congress tries to cut the military, I will veto that in a millisecond.

Whip-smart champion debater Ted Cruz, bless him, was counting and found 11 attacks: “I will say at least half of the things Marco said are flat-out false.” Well, what about the other 5.5? He was able to briefly get something resembling a response, largely reiterating that Rubio is the real amnesty-lover while Cruz has never, ever countenanced such illicit behavior. The moderator then cut him off to move to the next issue.

Rubio has had plenty of good debates already, but he never goes anywhere. He’s tried to muddy the water on immigration against Cruz before, and it hasn’t achieved anything. Maybe the full brunt of the attacks in rapid succession, with a limited response from Cruz, will begin to make a dent. Or a larger number of conservatives will continue liking Cruz more than they like Rubio, because Cruz is marginally more conservative, and Rubio will remain Mr. 12 Percent.