Which Marco Rubio will show up to this week’s debate?

The GOP presidential candidates meet again for another debate — this time at the University of Miami, ahead of the winner-take-all Florida and Ohio votes, where 99 and 66 delegates are at stake. You can hear the showdown on our CNN simulcast (Ch. 116), starting at 8:30 pm ET Thursday night.

SiriusXM POTUS and CNN host Michael Smerconish told us what’s top-of-mind for him as we head into this important debate:


Among my many questions for Thursday night’s debate in Miami is this: Which Marco Rubio shows up?

Will it be the workmanlike Rubio who we saw in the first ten or so debates, who talked substance and policy, touted his Senate record and his status as heir to the Reagan throne? Or will it be the Rubio who stooped to Trump’s level in the more recent sophomoric exchanges?

Clearly the “hands” exchanges he initiated with Donald Trump did not benefit Rubio. If they benefited anyone, they helped Ted Cruz, or maybe John Kasich.

So does Rubio resort to who he was, or the Trump-like progeny he became on the last debate stage?

The stakes are high. It’s his home state. He needs a win, not because he will be on a path to 1,237 delegates required for the nomination, but because he needs to salvage his political legacy and prospects for the future.

The debate is important because it is the last time these candidates square off before Super Tuesday III – where the GOP rules permit winner take all allocation of delegates in both Florida and Ohio. And right now the situation is at a crossroads.

Is Donald Trump going to lock up the nomination by winning Florida and Ohio, or can Kasich pick off Ohio, and/or Rubio Florida? This would mean this situation will continue for 2-3 more months, resulting in no one entering Cleveland with the requisite number of delegates.

This debate is a critical domino in what is currently unfolding.


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