Chris Matthews and Brit Hume are, it's safe to say, probably rarely in agreement on much. Tonight, however, both compared Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's handling of Chris Christie in tonight's New Hampshire primary debate to Dan Quayle poor debate performance in 1988 against Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas).
To be sure, Hume was more measured in tone and did not seem gleeful in his pronouncement, whereas Matthews is certainly no fan of the senator – whom he's repeatedly derided as a "robot" and "sock puppet" – but all the same it's an unfavorable comparison that's illustrative of the punditocracy's conventional wisdom in the wake of tonight's debate.
Hume on Rubio:
His performance reminded me of nothing so much as Dan Quayle in the 1988 presidential debate when he was asked repeatedly what he would do if he suddenly became president.... He fumbled the question once, and he fumbled it again.... And then Tom Brokaw put it to him a third time... that led to the famous moment when Lloyd Bentsen... famously said, you know, "Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine, and, senator, you're no Jack Kennedy"....[i]t fed a narrative about him that he was young and inexperienced – he was then a young senator, and, so, these things can have a lasting impression.
For his part, Matthews was much nastier, starting off by comparing Rubio with someone who is mentally ill and repeats himself:
I've never seen this happen before, with a mentally healthy guy. I mean, short-term memory's one reason why people repeat themselves. He doesn't have a short-term memory problem. There's no deficiency here. For some reason, he repeated a whole speech part four times in a row before the same audience....It looked a little screwy.
Moments later, Matthews later called Rubio a "broken record." "We're back to vinyl hre" with a "robotic" Rubio, Matthews groused, before airing a montage of Rubio's repeated line. "This is the mental part that I don't get," Matthews complained. "Four times tonight. Same audience!"
"I think this is going to be up there in the history of bad performances up there with Dan Quayle and I'm no Jack Kennedy, I'm Jack Kennedy," Matthews insisted to his guests David Corn of the leftist Mother Jones magazine and Mark Halperin of Bloomberg.
Just as "[Quayle] stepped right into the [trap].... and Lloyd Bentsen stood back and cut his head off," Marco Rubio "was assaulted by a skilled prosecutor in a way that tore into him to the point that he was just rattled."
"I don't understand why a guy of obvious intelligence would repeat himself four different times with the same speech," Matthews marveled.
"Chris, this is not the end of the Rubio campaign by any means," Halperin offered, but predicted that if Rubio "has mercilessly negative coverage over this between now and the primary, we're now in a position where" it could be "Bush or Kasich" ending in second on Tuesday, not Rubio.
Wrapping up his segment, Matthews insisted "this has made the list" of notorious political moments like "Joe Biden and Neil Kinnock and of course Dan Quayle and Jack Kennedy." "This is going to be one of those moments that people play again and again as strange. Strange is the right word," he concluded.