Rubio surging in SC: True or false?

One of the more entertaining aspects of politics is to watch as candidates try to "win the news cycle."  To that end, they carefully craft the message of the day for their stump speeches while handing out talking points to surrogates, who then fan out across the media spectrum to reinforce whatever it is the campaign is trying to accomplish for that day.

The Rubio campaign has been pushing a theme since the South Carolina debate that he has left his fifth-place New Hampshire debacle behind him and is now "surging" in the Palmetto State.

Gone and forgotten is the "robot Rubio" who constantly repeated himself on stage, the talking points go.  Rubio has become "the comeback kid" in South Carolina – a moniker that has a lot of attractioin for voters who love the comeback scenario in any candidate.

But how much of this is real, and how much is it blather from establishment Republican sources looking to boost their last best hope to beat Trump and Cruz?

This glowing Politico story on Rubio's comeback in South Carolina probably falls in the latter category.  "Rubio surges back to electrify South Carolina," says the headline.  The evidence?  One rally of enthusiastic attendees who cheered Rubio's profession of faith that he is at "peace" with his poor performance in New Hampshire:

“The concept of peace in Christianity is not simply peace, like, no-war peace. It is the peace of being at peace with whatever God decides,” Rubio told Don Pendleton, a retiree who'd taken the microphone and told Rubio that he was disappointed after the 2016 contender's dismal showing in New Hampshire until seeing the swell of support in the room. It was a heartfelt statement that gave the senator an opening to dig deep. “Here is what I am at peace with: whatever happens next, God will either give me the ability to get around it or the strength to go through it. I think that is also true for our country.”

When he finished, Rubio basked in thunderous applause from a 2,000-person, standing-room-only crowd, roughly 10 percent of the town's population.

His bruises from New Hampshire have healed—and not simply because of his faith. The 44-year-old senator was indeed humbled by the humiliation he suffered before heading to South Carolina, but his chances of capturing the Republican nomination haven’t completely gone south. Donald Trump sits high atop the polls here, but Rubio is positioned to finish either second or third. A poll Monday night taken entirely after Saturday's debate shows Rubio tied for second with Cruz at 18 percent.

A poll on who won the debate conducted by CBS shows Rubio winning 32% to Trump's 24%.  That is a significant victory, well outside the margin of error.

But Rubio achieved that victory by basically keeping his head down and avoiding the kind of mistakes he made in New Hampshire.  The Trump-Bush show dominated the night, hurting both candidates, while Rubio got off relatively easy.

Still, a poll out today by Democratic pollsters Public Policy Polling shows the fight for second very close, with Cruz and Rubio tied at 18% and John Kasich holding at 10%, with Jeb Bush at 7%.  (Trump is ahead with 35%.)  What makes this poll somewhat significant for Rubio is that it shows he has stopped the bleeding from New Hampshire.  He may not be "surging" in the sense that he has a chance to overtake Trump, but it's clear his slide has been checked.

A third-place finish would give Rubio a ticket out of South Carolina and into the Nevada caucuses later this month, and probably into the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1.  A second-place finish could convince establishment donors to give up on Bush entirely and flood Rubio's campaign with cash. 

But in South Carolina, trying to tell the difference between what's real and what's a mirage when it comes to Rubio probably won't be resolved until election night.

One of the more entertaining aspects of politics is to watch as candidates try to "win the news cycle."  To that end, they carefully craft the message of the day for their stump speeches while handing out talking points to surrogates, who then fan out across the media spectrum to reinforce whatever it is the campaign is trying to accomplish for that day.

The Rubio campaign has been pushing a theme since the South Carolina debate that he has left his fifth-place New Hampshire debacle behind him and is now "surging" in the Palmetto State.

Gone and forgotten is the "robot Rubio" who constantly repeated himself on stage, the talking points go.  Rubio has become "the comeback kid" in South Carolina – a moniker that has a lot of attractioin for voters who love the comeback scenario in any candidate.

But how much of this is real, and how much is it blather from establishment Republican sources looking to boost their last best hope to beat Trump and Cruz?

This glowing Politico story on Rubio's comeback in South Carolina probably falls in the latter category.  "Rubio surges back to electrify South Carolina," says the headline.  The evidence?  One rally of enthusiastic attendees who cheered Rubio's profession of faith that he is at "peace" with his poor performance in New Hampshire:

“The concept of peace in Christianity is not simply peace, like, no-war peace. It is the peace of being at peace with whatever God decides,” Rubio told Don Pendleton, a retiree who'd taken the microphone and told Rubio that he was disappointed after the 2016 contender's dismal showing in New Hampshire until seeing the swell of support in the room. It was a heartfelt statement that gave the senator an opening to dig deep. “Here is what I am at peace with: whatever happens next, God will either give me the ability to get around it or the strength to go through it. I think that is also true for our country.”

When he finished, Rubio basked in thunderous applause from a 2,000-person, standing-room-only crowd, roughly 10 percent of the town's population.

His bruises from New Hampshire have healed—and not simply because of his faith. The 44-year-old senator was indeed humbled by the humiliation he suffered before heading to South Carolina, but his chances of capturing the Republican nomination haven’t completely gone south. Donald Trump sits high atop the polls here, but Rubio is positioned to finish either second or third. A poll Monday night taken entirely after Saturday's debate shows Rubio tied for second with Cruz at 18 percent.

A poll on who won the debate conducted by CBS shows Rubio winning 32% to Trump's 24%.  That is a significant victory, well outside the margin of error.

But Rubio achieved that victory by basically keeping his head down and avoiding the kind of mistakes he made in New Hampshire.  The Trump-Bush show dominated the night, hurting both candidates, while Rubio got off relatively easy.

Still, a poll out today by Democratic pollsters Public Policy Polling shows the fight for second very close, with Cruz and Rubio tied at 18% and John Kasich holding at 10%, with Jeb Bush at 7%.  (Trump is ahead with 35%.)  What makes this poll somewhat significant for Rubio is that it shows he has stopped the bleeding from New Hampshire.  He may not be "surging" in the sense that he has a chance to overtake Trump, but it's clear his slide has been checked.

A third-place finish would give Rubio a ticket out of South Carolina and into the Nevada caucuses later this month, and probably into the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1.  A second-place finish could convince establishment donors to give up on Bush entirely and flood Rubio's campaign with cash. 

But in South Carolina, trying to tell the difference between what's real and what's a mirage when it comes to Rubio probably won't be resolved until election night.