Marco Rubio needs to study insult comedy from a master, President Obama.

The Florida senator has the right idea that the way to go after Donald Trump is by insults. Trump is extremely vain and touchy. He tends to get flustered and lash out when taunted. Alas, Rubio’s jokes are not very good or effective: On the campaign trail, he has joked that Trump wet his pants at the last Republican debate and mocked Trump’s notoriously small hands (with a heavy-handed hint that this means the real estate mogul was not well-endowed in the genital department). 

These insults are generic. Trump’s insults land a punch because they often have an element of truth: Jeb Bush did seem low-energy, Ted Cruz is a huge liar, and Rubio does come across as callow. 

If Rubio wants to learn the proper way to insult Trump, he should study Obama. In the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, where Trump was in the audience, Obama made the businessman squirm by mocking his birtherism and the absurd notion that being on Celebrity Apprentice was fit preparation for the presidency. 

Obama’s belittling was carried off with a cold hauteur. He attacked from above, like an eagle swooping down to destroy a pesky rodent. Rubio, by contrast, has been meeting Trump at his own level, like the proverbial man getting into the sty to wrestle with the pig. 

Mocking Trump is the right strategy, but Rubio isn’t doing it in the right way. And time is running out.

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!