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Here’s why Marco Rubio felt he had to repeat that one line over and over again

Marco Rubio kept repeating himself at the New Hampshire GOP debate.
Marco Rubio kept repeating himself at the New Hampshire GOP debate.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Marco Rubio's being widely mocked for his performance at the Republican debate Saturday night, where he said the same Barack Obama attack line again and again and again … and again.

But what was he actually trying to say?

Rubio's argument is twofold: President Barack Obama is competent. And he's also wrong.

"Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing," Rubio said (repeatedly). "He knows exactly what he's doing. Barack Obama is undertaking an effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world."

You can watch Rubio saying his line over and over again here:

Rubio's argument is about Obama and it is even more about himself. Rubio's key rivals are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich— governors from big states with long public records. They have started to argue that Rubio, a first-term senator, is unproven — just like the young Obama who went into office and screwed up so badly (in the eyes of conservative voters). So Rubio has come up with a counterargument: Obama was untested. But that wasn't his problem.

Why is Rubio driving this point home?

As much as Rubio says Obama has ruined America, he has something in common with the sitting president: Both placed a bid for the White House as first-term senators.

Rubio, the 44-year-old junior senator from Florida, is the youngest candidate running for office this election, something other candidates, namely Christie, are using against him.

While campaigning in New Hampshire, Christie has made a concerted effort to knock down Rubio's experience, using Obama as an example of the dangers of voting in a first-term senator.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," Christie said of a Rubio presidency Wednesday morning, going on to say that Rubio had left "no footprint" during his time in the US Senate thus far.

Christie reiterated this warning to voters at the debate:

"I like Marco Rubio and he's a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States and make these decisions," Christie said Saturday. "We've watched it happen, everybody, for the last seven years. The people of New Hampshire are smart. Do not make the same mistake again."

When ABC moderator David Muir asked Rubio to respond to these attacks at the debate, Rubio responded with a brief and vague list of his accomplishments and introduced his point about Obama's competence, which he then repeated again and again, and again.

The debate over Obama's competence

In an attempt to prove Obama's failure as president is not because of a lack of experience, but because of a difference in ideology, Rubio created a rift in the typical Obama-is-an-idiot GOP rhetoric.

Trump, who is big on the "Obama is incompetent" bandwagon, responded to Rubio's point at the debate:

"First of all, Marco said earlier on that President Obama knows exactly what he's doing, like we have this president that really knows — I disagree, respectfully, with Marco," Trump said. "I think we have a president who, as a president, is totally incompetent and he doesn't know what he's doing. I think he has no idea what he's doing. And our country is going to hell."

Intentionally, or unintentionally, Christie's hit on first-term senators also applied to Trump's top rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is only a few months older than Rubio, but has not seen as much backlash on his age.