Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), having dropped out of the presidential race after a campaign that could best be described as "existent," has begun the soul-searching phase of his post-campaign life. He's also ended the soul-searching phase of his post-campaign life, having definitively identified the real source of all his problems: the media.
According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press -- which reps one of the only parts of the country that seemed to manifest a genuine enthusiasm for Rubio -- the Florida senator had a sort of after-action meeting with his "Minnesota supporters" where he explained it was the political press that did him in.
“This election was entirely driven by national media coverage, in many ways,” Rubio said, in audio of the conference call obtained by the Pioneer Press. “When the media narrative goes negative on you, and all the news is bad, it kind of knocks us off.”
Oh man, yeah. When you lose that media narrative, dude, it can be devastating. Although this doesn't entirely explain how Trump repeatedly beat Rubio amid a "media narrative" that's pretty much accurately painted the front-runner as a violence-stokin
Here's the funny thing: Last time I checked -- which was Tuesday -- the media was actually Marco Rubio's most avid booster, treating multiple second-, third- and fifth-place finishes as portents of some certain future success. Again and again, when Rubio failed to win a primary contest, the media would come up with some crazy rationale to consider him the "real winner" -- a tendency that was documented in full by The Huffington Post's Nick Baumann, in a tongue-in-cheek post titled "Marco Rubio Was The Real Winner Of The New Hampshire Primary."
And when the Rubio campaign went out of its way to engineer a better narrative than the results deserved, the media would usually oblige, climbing aboard Rubio's crazy fantasy ride in much the same way you'd go along with your kid's insistence that a cardboard box was really a time machine.
So it's pretty weird that Rubio is mad at the media, but it seems like his mind is made up. Just look at the way he's now assessing the quality of his post-Super Tuesday coverage, per the Pioneer Press:
He said he “saw the bottom fall out of our support” after the March 1 elections, when Rubio won Minnesota but lost everywhere else.
“The media kind of just said, ‘Marco Rubio had a terrible night, and it looks like the strongest anti-Trump alternative is Ted Cruz,'” Rubio said.
Of course, there was a pretty good reason why the media "kind of just said" that Rubio had a "terrible night" on Super Tuesday: He literally had a terrible night on Super Tuesday. In fact, if the media only kind of just said Rubio had a bad outcome that night, it was actually being quite nice to him.
There's really no way to put a positive spin on what happened that night. Rubio lost nine states outright, and many of those losses were especially bad ones in which he failed to clear some pretty low voter thresholds that would have allowed him to claim some delegates and keep chunking along behind Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Prior to Super Tuesday, the media had gone out of its way to spin gold out of Rubio's distinctly straw-like numbers, but at a certain point it just becomes impossible.
Of course, in some instances, it was hard to shine a positive light on the Rubio campaign before the Super Tuesday primary. At the GOP debate before the crucial New Hampshire primary, Rubio blew a gasket onstage, repeating a canned zinger ("Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing, he knows exactly what he’s doing") over and over again until it couldn't not be noticed. It was certainly difficult to ignore the way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie filleted Rubio on live television for this strained talking-point ostinato.
So, yes, the media had a bit of a heyday with that, and it wouldn't be crazy to suggest that it cost Rubio dearly in the ensuing New Hampshire primary. But what could he have done about that, other than to have not provided the fodder in the first place? The sad truth is that Rubio did that to himself. Or, to put it in a way that Rubio might understand: Rubio did that to himself, Rubio did that to himself, Rubio did that to himself, Rubio did that to himself.
Rubio is not the only GOP candidate who's decided the media is working against their interests in the primary. On the March 6 edition of "Face the Nation," Cruz intimated that the media was "sitting on bombshells" about Trump, and delaying the deployment of said bombshells until they could only benefit the eventual Democratic nominee:
"I think an awful lot of reporters -- I can't tell you how many media outlets I hear, you know, have this great exposé on Donald, on different aspects of his business dealings or his past, but they said, 'You know what? We're going to hold it to June or July,'" Cruz said on CBS's "Face The Nation" Sunday.
"We're not going to run it now."
This has become one of Cruz's go-to stump speech lines, meaning that this is possibly just a bit he does to keep his supporters passionate and engaged. The reality is that there are probably a lot of media outlets -- including a ton of specifically conservative media outlets -- that would be very grateful for Cruz to share what he knows of these bombshells.
Heck, it's not even confined to conservative outlets. Gawker's Sam Biddle reacted to Cruz's contention thusly: "So, about a bombshell: Please email it to me. I’ll publish it today, Ted. That’s my promise to you, Ted Cruz: give me a bombshell (or even an old grenade, something, any kind of explosive device, any ordnance will do, PLEASE man) and I will let loose ASAP."
Indeed, there would actually probably be a robust competition for Trump bombshells, so I couldn't tell you why Cruz is waiting. (DM me on Twitter with your Trump scoops, buddy!)
Nevertheless, Cruz definitely has a slam-dunk case to make against the media: It's made a habit of downplaying his electoral victories in favor of emphasizing Rubio's. The only difference is that Cruz's victories have actually been, you know, victories. Perhaps Cruz would have come to be widely known as the dynamic anti-Trump candidate if Rubio hadn't gotten weeks and weeks of credit for being that guy instead.
As for Rubio, the story is that he might take a break from electoral politics, which means he'll likely begin his ascent into the lucrative, latter-day career choices that await politicians when they decide to depart their elected office. Somewhere out there, there's a corporate board or lobby shop or private equity concern that's willing to generously remunerate Rubio for having a media profile and a raft of important political connections.
But a warning to Rubio's future patrons: He bites the hand that feeds.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.