The archetypical tale of the young grasshopper surpassing his mentor is still playing out between Miami's two native presidential candidates. Except in this case, the mentor is desperately outspending his protégé — and everyone else for that matter — in a last-ditch effort to remain relevant. And so far, it's not working.
Marco Rubio has surged into second place in the GOP presidential race, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, released this morning. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, is barely idling above also-ran status with just 5 percent of the vote despite dropping an astounding $26 million on early TV ads.
Of course, both are still way behind Donald Trump, who clocks in the latest survey at 27 percent — a full 10 percent above Rubio, his closest challenger.
"It doesn't seem to matter what he says or who he offends, whether the facts are contested or the 'political correctness' is challenged, Donald Trump seems to be wearing Kevlar," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, says in a release.
Still, the Q poll is the latest sign that Rubio looks like the real deal in a crowded, cacophonous Republican field. Eleven months out from the primary, the senator from Miami garnered 17 percent support in the poll of 1,453 registered voters. That puts Rubio just ahead of Ben Carson (who looks to be fading at 16 percent) and Sen. Ted Cruz (also at 16 percent).
Rubio's support looks to be coming from the party's center. The poll shows that 26 percent of "somewhat" conservative voters back him, and he polled equally well among men and women. His numbers contrast with those of his closest rival, Cruz, whose support comes from the Tea Party wing, 29 percent of which backs him.
The question for Rubio is whether he can find a way past the Teflon Don, whose numbers don't seem to budge no matter what he says or does on the campaign trail.
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At least Rubio is within striking distance, though. That's much more than his erstwhile mentor Jeb Bush can say. Bush nabbed just 5 percent in the latest poll, barely topping already-forgotten candidates such as Rand Paul and John Kasich.
And that's after a month that found Bush pouring huge sums of cash into Iowa and New Hampshire. His TV buys are more than three times the amount of those of any other candidate, the Associate Press reports this morning. Despite the fact that Bush pulled in another $1 million last month — with more to come thanks to a Britto-sponsored fundraiser in Miami this weekend — his biggest backers are getting worried.
"I continue to be concerned," top donor Craig Duchossois tells the AP.