GOP Debate: Marco Rubio Mocked as ‘Robot-Like’ for Repeating Memorized Lines

February 7, 2016 Updated: February 7, 2016

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, championed by the press as the GOP candidate with the best shot at defeating Donald Trump, lost his aura of invincibility last night at the Republican debate.

During the debate, Rubio was caught repeating the same memorized lines about President Barack Obama over and over. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called him out on it, Rubio defended himself against the charge of repetition—by again repeating himself.

“This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Rubio said.

“There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody,” Christie replied, to the applause of the crowd.

“We are not facing a president that doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows what he is doing,” Rubio responded, unwittingly confirming Christie’s point. 

The confrontation was seen by some as validation of the critique of Rubio as a telegenic candidate who delivers formulaic lines fed to him by his campaign advisers.

Rubio was widely criticized for his gaffe, with members of the press comparing him to everything from a CD ROM and a broken gramophone player to the robot in “Terminator 2.”

Spokesman Todd Harris told reporters after the debate that the critiques aimed at Rubio were just “media noise” and not the issue that voters are actually concerned about—finding a candidate who can face off against Hillary Clinton.

Rubio had performed above expectations in Iowa, receiving a much larger fraction of votes in the caucuses than the polls had predicted, and many in the anti-Trump wing of the Republican party were looking to Rubio as the one who could beat Trump in New Hampshire and knock him out of the race.

After Saturday’s debate, that scenario is looking far less likely.

Two days before the primary starts, Trump is still leading in New Hampshire with more than 30 percent, and has a double digit lead over Rubio, the next most popular candidate, according to Real Clear Politics.