While speaking at a campaign event in Purcellville, Virginia, on Sunday, Marco Rubio noticed several hecklers in the crowd holding a pair of handwritten signs that read: “Marco Rubio, empty suit.”
“My suit wasn’t made in China; it’s not a Trump suit!” Rubio quipped. Then he motioned toward the attendees who had caused the commotion and jeered: “Ladies and gentleman, the valedictorian of Trump University!”
The crowd cheered wildly, and chanted: “Marco! Marco! Marco!”
Rubio responds to hecklers: "Ladies and gentlemen, the valedictorian of Trump University!" https://t.co/GVCozOeLrX
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) February 28, 2016
This is the new Marco Rubio. The one who debuted last Thursday night on CNN’s debate stage, during which he gleefully bashed competitor Donald Trump’s record of prioritizing foreign workers over Americans and mocked him for being unable to explain the details of his health-care reform plan beyond just “removing the lines from the states.”
“I decided at the last debate it was time to unmask the true nature of Trump,” he explained to a crowd of more than 3,000 on Sunday, who wildly cheered their approval. Rubio also hit Trump on his unwillingness to denounce David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK, who recently endorsed the real-estate mogul.
“He knows exactly who David Duke is,” Rubio said in response to Trump’s feigned ignorance of Duke’s affiliation with the KKK during a CNN interview Sunday morning. “He was asked repeatedly: ‘Will you repudiate and condemn the Klu Klux Klan?’ And he refused to do that as well. We can not be a party that refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Klu Klux Klan.”
Rubio said Trump was a swindler who literally bankrupted a casino (“How do you bankrupt a casino?“) and defrauded thousands of dollars from those who attended Trump University. In exchange, they got “nothing” but a photo with a cardboard cutout of Trump.
“Friends don’t let friends vote for con artists!” Rubio said.
Will Rubio’s new approach — to attack Trump as hard as he can with funny one-liners — help carry him to the nomination?
In terms of garnering media attention, it has been working like a charm. To a soundbite-obsessed media, which has grown accustomed to Trump’s 140-character-long inanity, Rubio’s louder and more aggressive tone is like catnip. As Federalist editor Mollie Hemingway pointed out, the media’s obsession with Trump has forced other Republican candidates into viciously attacking the billionaire in order to get any airtime at all. And Rubio’s recent jabs have certainly garnered him a lot of attention.
But will this new approach be enough to get enough voters to distance themselves from the casino tycoon and into the arms of the Florida senator?
The sentiment among many of the attendees at the Purcellville rally was that Trump must be stopped at all costs. Several who said they were planning to vote for Rubio on Tuesday admitted that he was their second choice. Some said they had been torn between Ted Cruz and Rubio for a while, but just recently the Florida senator had won them over.
Lori Galloway, 52, of Purcellville, Virginia, said she was planning to vote for Cruz in the upcoming primary, but that she would support Rubio if he were the nominee — as long as it would stop Trump.
Kristen Hackworth, 19, of Berryville, Virginia, said that she recently decided to vote for Rubio over Cruz in the upcoming primary. She enjoyed watching Rubio handle the hecklers, particularly when he followed up his “Trump University” quip with a statement that he would be a “president for all Americans,” rally disrupters included.
Two Rubio supporters sheepishly admitted that they had initially supported Trump at the start of the election cycle. Several nearby attendees who overheard the conversation audibly gasped. One woman standing nearby exclaimed something along the lines of: “Well, we’re glad you saw the light!”
Tracy Tiffany, 41, of Frederick County, Virginia, said she had supported Trump out of frustration, saying that she felt “something had to be done” to fix Washington’s overt leftism. Tiffany explained that after a while, she noticed that Trump’s speeches weren’t substantial and were often repetitive and fueled by anger.
Trump is the real empty suit, she said. Tiffany said what drew her to Rubio specifically was his plan to limit federal involvement in the classroom. As a former schoolteacher, she explained that her autonomy in the classroom dwindled significantly towards the end of her tenure — the result of federal education programs.
Matt Liszewski, 37, a former Trump supporter also from Frederick County, said that he plans to vote for Rubio in Tuesday’s primary because Trump lacked substance, but “when you listen to Rubio, you feel moved.”
Virginia and 12 other states will hold primary elections on Tuesday.