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Mixed Message

In 2016, Rubio Is Both Sunny Optimist and Ominous '24' Character

The Florida senator's tone has darkened as he chases rivals Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for his party's nomination.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio addresses supporters during a rally in Dallas on Jan. 6, 2016.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio addresses supporters during a rally in Dallas on Jan. 6, 2016.

Photographer: LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Marco Rubio has adopted a darker tone in the first week of 2016, deploying increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric and fiercer attacks on Republican rivals that provide a stark contrast with the relatively non-confrontational brand of sunny optimism that had characterized his presidential campaign through 2015.

Running behind the edgier campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz nationally and in key early states, the young first-term senator needs to put big points on the board in Iowa and New Hampshire in order to stave off an early collapse, and as a result he's waging ongoing battles against three Republican rivals.