Gaffe Track: Robotic Rubio Strikes Again. Robotic Rubio Strikes Again.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Marco Rubio

The gaffe: With the press and rivals hounding him about the tendency to repeat canned soundbites both on the stump and in debates, Rubio went on stage on Monday in Nashua and, well, see for yourself:

Easily the best part of this clip is that awkward pause at 25 seconds, where Rubio appears to realize what he’s doing.

The defense: Let’s dispel with the notion that Rubio didn’t know what he was doing. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): When you’re in a hole, quit digging: It’s one cliche that Rubio doesn’t seem to know. Mocked for repeating lines by Chris Christie at Saturday’s debate, he repeated lines. With the press piling on and scrutinizing his every move, he did it again in Nashua. As I wrote Monday, being robotic isn’t really the problem—it’s the impression that a politician who repeats himself can’t think for himself or improvise, or make the tough, instant decisions a president must.

The lesson: In the 21st century, we know how hard it’s become to instill flexibility in our candidates, instead of the talking points they try to ram down our throats.