Rubio tries not to break a sweat

Ever since Richard Nixon dabbed the sweat off his upper lip during his televised debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960, presidential campaigns have been about the optics and technology.

While there’s nothing that can definitely prove it, most pundits think, and many Americans have come to believe, that Nixon lost the race because of how he looked – pale and drenched in sweat – next to the telegenic Massachusetts senator, who understood the power of the emerging medium. From that point on, it has been the goal of campaign advisors to either harness the screen for their candidate’s benefit or, failing that, to make sure the opponent comes across in the least favorable light to voters.

Chris Christie employed the latter in Saturday’s final pre-New Hampshire GOP debate at Saint Anselm College, exposing the biggest criticisms of Sen. Marco Rubio — that he is robotic, superficial, unable to think on his feet, and inexperienced. It came as Rubio was ascending following his surprisingly strong Iowa showing and threatening to make it a three-man race coming out of New Hampshire Wednesday morning.

Rubio used a line he’s used countless times on the stump — that President Obama is not a mere neophyte overwhelmed by the power of the office, but rather a man focused on changing the country to his own brand of liberal (read: socialist) politics.

“Let’s dispel once and for all this notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Rubio said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

In response to a follow-up question, Rubio repeated his answer word for word, which prompted Christie to pounce.

“There it is, there it is,” Christie yelled and pointed. “The memorized 25-second speech! There it is, everybody!”

In the aftermath of the debate, that repeated response became the focus, as news analyses and columnists picked up on the narrative and Rubio was forced to defend himself. The Boston Herald’s Page 1 on Sunday blared “CHOKE” while the more subdued media nonetheless hammered away at Rubio’s vulnerability, declaring the goof a possible fatal self-inflicted wound.

Howie Carr, a Donald Trump supporter, didn’t see it as self-inflicted, though he rejoiced in it nonetheless. “Chris Christie last night put on a suicide belt — with an extender — and took out US Sen. Marco Rubio,” Carr wrote in Sunday’s paper.

It’s difficult to say whether it will have an impact Tuesday, and even after that it will be hard to measure just what that impact was, but it’s certain to dog Rubio the remainder of the campaign. That’s what the Internet is for.

Even for those who don’t remember sitting in front of the old black and white RCA set in 1960, there are plenty more current examples, ranging from Lloyd Bentsen’s 1988 slam of Dan Quayle (“You are no Jack Kennedy”) to Rick Perry’s “oops” four years ago.

But as television changed the dynamics a half century ago, missteps today are not only captured in full high-definition and replayed on a continuous loop but are spread instantly on social media and news sites and memorialized on the Internet to reach a wider audience than those who stay in on a Saturday night to watch a debate.

Rubio, as well as the rest of the field, will be sweating out the results.

–JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

A Globe editorial calls for action on a transgender rights bill — and rips Gov. Charlie Baker for his “wait-and-see attitude” on the issue.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Kemal Bozkurt, under pressure from Mayor Daniel Rivera, resigns from the Lawrence School Committee four weeks after taking office. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Patriot Ledger over the weekend began a five-part series on the exploding Asian population in Quincy, which now represents more than a quarter of the city’s residents, taking a look at the impact on business, government, and education.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A Chicago police officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old college student sues the student’s estate arguing the incident caused him “extreme emotional trauma.” (Governing)

ELECTIONS

There’s still lots of uncertainty among New Hampshire voters in advance of a presidential primary that feels unlike many others. (Boston Globe)

Politico’s Lauren Dezenski runs down Gov. Charlie Baker’s brief New Hampshire foray on behalf of Chris Christie.

Like an invading army from the south, Massachusetts Democratic pols were out in force for Hillary Clinton over the weekend in New Hampshire. (Boston Herald)

Former President Bill Clinton unleashed a blistering attack on Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling the candidate’s criticisms of his wife “sexist” and said the socialist from Vermont was “hermetically sealed.” (New York Times) Joan Vennochi explores the gender dynamic in the Democratic race, which was highlighted over the weekend by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s comment that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other” and Gloria Steinem’s suggestion that girls are gravitating to Sanders because that’s where the boys are. (Boston Globe)

Waterboarding doesn’t go far enough, says Donald Trump, the king of shock, if not exactly awe. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a profile of the Boston-based Barr Foundation which recently announced its decision to expand its reach and scope. (Subscription required) Boston Magazine also has a look at Barr.

A Newton tour company operator may have taken the money of would-be travelers and run — to Foxwoods and other gambling halls. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Former state education secretary and Brockton school superintendent Matthew Malone stepped down as interim superintendent in Saugus with both sides citing a difference in vision. No word on whether Malone is returning to the butcher shop in Roslindale to resume cutting meat. (The Enterprise)

Suspensions of black students may be a prime reason for the black-white achievement gap, but both the study and the report on it seem to go back and forth on whether the relationship between suspensions and lower achievement is causal. (WBUR)

ICYMI: Suffolk University dumps both President Margaret McKenna and the chairman of the board of trustees, Andrew Meyer. (CommonWealth) PR honcho George Regan is in the thick of it all. (Boston Globe)

UMass Dartmouth launches a drug awareness campaign after a second heroin overdose on campus. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Sunday’s Globe had this profile of the most powerful woman in Massachusetts health care that you may never have heard of — Dolores Mitchell, the 86-year-old director of the Group Insurance Commission, which oversees health benefits for nearly half a million public employees, past and present, and their families. Mitchell is stepping down after 29 years of pushing the envelope on ways to control costs without harming care.

TRANSPORTATION

For those sitting in a windowless cave, there’s a big stawm blowin’ — and officials are urging everyone to stay off the roads. (Boston Globe) It’s unclear how the MBTA will perform today, but we’re sure Charlie Baker is praying and calling on all the luck at his disposal in the hope that the transit agency he now owns doesn’t collapse under the weight of today’s snow.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Gov. Charlie Baker’s position on the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline is hard to read as he sends some signals that he is opposed to it and others that he wants to facilitate it. (One fact not mentioned in the story is that the governor has repeatedly said he favors expansion of existing pipelines rather than building new ones.) (The Sun)

SPORTS

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Denver Broncos crushed the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 and quarterback Peyton Manning likely retires a winner. So what? (New York Times)