The Corner

Should Rubio Lay Off?

Chris Cillizza wonders:

Rubio allies send each Crist clip far and wide — ensuring that reporters in Florida as well as nationally see every last equivocation of the governor.

But, is Rubio’s aggression in driving Crist out of the race a strategic blunder?

It’s become increasingly clear over the last few months that Crist has, charitably, a very narrow path to the Republican Senate nomination. Rubio has become a conservative icon during that time while successfully branding Crist as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the party — a image cemented by the governor’s support of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan last year . . . the best case scenario for Rubio is that Crist remain in what looks to be an unwinnable Republican primary on Aug. 24 . . . The alternative — driving Crist from the Republican primary to run as an independent — seems far riskier for Rubio as the governor retains some modest level of support within the GOP and might be able to cobble together enough independent and Democratic backing to be a force in the fall.

Fair points, but I’m not sure if I buy the argument that Crist’s decision, whether he stays or leaves, is due to “Rubio’s aggression in driving Crist out of the race.” Crist climbed to the top of this fence himself. He wasn’t pushed. If he jumps out or left, it’ll be a choice he made due to political calculation, not because Rubio’s press shop or conservative activists flooded inboxes with links. Besides, though Cillizza may think it would be best for Rubio to lay off Crist for a bit as he mulls his options, in politics, you don’t pull punches when your opponent is on the ropes. You finish him off. And if he somehow reemerges for another round come August, you adjust your gloves and dive back in, knowing you’ve already knocked him out once before.

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