By Yigit Topcu
While Marco Rubio enjoyed a surprisingly strong third-place finish in Iowa, it seems that his time in the spotlight may be up. Coming in at fifth in New Hampshire, the junior senator from Florida lost momentum after a disastrous performance in the last Republican debate.
For a moment Marco Rubio was leading the so-called “establishment lane” of the Republican race, which refers to the competition among the non-outsider candidates, meaning the candidates that are not Trump, Cruz or Carson.
Rubio’s appeal as a young politician who can unite the party’s various strains of conservatism and further expand the GOP’s appeal to hispanic voters began fading fast after the debate. One of the most common criticisms aimed at Rubio has been that he is an amateur politician and not yet ready to become president – this criticism turned into a devastating attack during the debate, when governor Chris Christie, who has since dropped out of the race, attacked Rubio’s rehearsed lines which did not address much of the question he was being asked.
While defending himself, Rubio caused more damage by almost fully repeating the same line close to four times. For a politician whose opponents try to paint as an amateur with rehearsed lines and not much else, this became a very costly mistake.
While Donald Trump won New Hampshire with a strong lead over his competition, John Kasich came in second. Kasich, a moderate Republican who makes an appeal similar to that of Rubio – as someone who can unite the party and the country – has since picked up momentum whereas Rubio has lost it.
The next Republican primary will be held in South Carolina. The conservatives of the state typically favor a hawkish stance on matters of military and security, which may help Marco Rubio’s campaign as he is known for his strong stance on the military, has experience serving on the senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees, and overall has a good grasp on foreign policy. If Rubio succeeds in convincing the voters of South Carolina of his expertise in foreign affairs, both at campaign stops and on the debate stage, then South Carolina may be the rescue that Rubio needs to regain his momentum.