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The GOP race enters strange territory as Rubio jokes about Trump’s small penis.

Justin Sullivan/Getty

Donald Trump is an insult comedian, a fact which has baffled his political rivals who have yet to figure out the correct way to respond. If you maintain a dignified silence to Trump’s jeering, you come across as weak. If you answer in kind, you find yourself reduced to a mudslinger. 

Rubio, long loath to take on Trump, has recently decided to go on the attack. At an event tonight he joked that Trump is a tall man but has the small hands befitting someone who is 5’2”. “You know what they say about a man with small hands,” Rubio quipped. “You can’t trust them.”

As jokes go, this was a misfire. Trump’s crudeness, nastiness, and insults are all part of to a total package. They reinforce his image as an insurgent, unbowed by establishment rules of decorum. Rubio’s problem is that in imitating Trump he is undermining his own previous image as the cheerful, optimistic face of conservatism. Whether Trump wins or loses, he’s transformed the race, so much so that Marco Rubio, once the Latino boy scout who would save the GOP, is now reduced to being a cut-rate Don Rickles.