Whoever programmed Marco Rubio did a good job.

Desperate times apparently suit him. In the days after Nevada, when the GOP establishment finally woke up to the reality that is Donald J. Trump, party elites demanded that somebody do something about Trump. Rubio has stepped up to the plate tonight. 

He has gone after Trump for his fraudulent “Trump University,” for hiring undocumented immigrants instead of American citizens, and for inheriting money from his father. At every opportunity, Rubio has unloaded a barrage of prepared attacks on Trump, at times going way outside the issue at hand to do so. He doesn’t seem to be holding anything back and I wonder if he can keep this up. An hour into the debate, Rubio’s had the line of the night: “Without his inheritance Trump would be selling watches in Manhattan today.”

Trump has mostly played rope-a-dope—he seems bored and a little petulant—and when he’s hit back, he’s hit back hard, but Rubio is clearly getting under his skin. And observers are loving it. 

Rubio is doing a good job making this seem like a two-man race, and that will undoubtedly appeal to donors—whether anybody else cares about the flurry of punches Rubio is throwing tonight is another matter, though. 

June 26, 2019

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Welcome to TNR’s coverage of the Democratic debates.

Yes, the debates are upon us, a mere 16 months before voters will cast their ballots to decide whether President Trump should get a second term. In that time, babies will be conceived and born, the earth will orbit the sun and then some, and Democrats will, with any luck, choose a champion from the two dozen candidates running for the nomination. It all begins tonight, with the first of two debates in Miami this week featuring the 20 candidates—ten each round—who qualified to participate by either polling at 1 percent in three surveys or receiving 65,000 individual donations.

The staff of The New Republic will be watching the proceedings, offering running commentary and post-debate analysis, and hopefully answering any questions readers might have. Who’s up, who’s down? Who, if anyone, seems qualified to stall America’s spiraling descent into a fiery wasteland overseen by Trumpian kleptocrats? And who is Eric Swalwell, anyway? Pop by TNR’s Minutes blog at 9 o’clock EST tonight and tomorrow night to find out!