The tragedy of Marco Rubio’s campaign

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., shakes hands at a campaign event in October.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., shakes hands at a campaign event in October. AP

We can now project another loser in the 2016 presidential race. We’re not talking loser as in Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Martin O'Malley and the others we’ve lost along the campaign trail.

We’re talking loser as in full-frontal embarrassment to himself and his family and disappointment to his nation. My fellow Americans, let’s get ready to bid farewell to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who despite his improved behavior and impressive performance in the Thursday debate in Miami, could go down as the most annoying candidate of the year.

And that’s in a year when a peculiar fellow named Donald Trump also is running.

I was impressed by Rubio when I saw him at a Dallas campaign event in January. Rubio offered an optimistic, upbeat presence.

The tone changed noticeably the next time I saw Rubio, at the Feb. 25 debate in Houston when he aggressively attacked Trump. The next day in Dallas Rubio went full Don Rickles, taunting Trump for misspelled tweets and suggesting Trump had wet his pants at the debate. Over the next few days, Rubio mocked Trump’s “horrible spray tan” and small hands.

I don’t think insult comic is necessarily the best shtick for a presidential candidate.

And now neither does Rubio, who a day prior to Thursday’s debate told MSNBC he regrets that phase of his campaign.

“If that’s what it takes to become president of the United States, then I don’t want to be president.”

So what are we to think of a senator who, for a few days, thought that’s what it takes to become president? It’s sad because Rubio was strong on a variety of policy issues at the Thursday debate. He limited his non-policy-related attacks on Trump to this tightly stated bit of reality about the loose-lipped front-runner: “I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says ‘cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.”

Ditto for presidential candidates.

Let’s end with something something making the rounds. I want to make sure you hear it.

Hillary Clinton would be our first female president. Bernie Sanders would be our first Jewish president.

Trump would be our last president.

Just a joke. Probably.