Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio (L) and Donald Trump participate in the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate February 6, 2016 at St. Anselm's College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire. / AFP / Jewel Samad
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Republican contender Marco Rubio struggled at a presidential debate Saturday at the worst possible time, potentially confounding his bid to emerge as Donald Trump's chief rival in New Hampshire and giving hope to three rivals desperate for a strong showing.Rubio's tough moments may breathe new life into the campaigns of Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich, three experienced politicians who, like Rubio, represent establishment Republicans.All three have suffered from the dominance of front-runner Trump in the Republican race. They are badly in need of a breakout moment to change the trajectory of the battle in New Hampshire, where the polls show Trump in the lead, Rubio in second and Texas Senator Ted Cruz in third place.Trump did not have his best debate. The trouble for Rubio began soon after the debate started when the ABC News moderators asked Christie about Rubio's experience in the U.S. Senate, and Christie pressed his case.When Rubio repeated the same line again, Christie sought to reinforce the charge that Rubio is so inexperienced that he relies on well-worn talking points and cannot think on his feet.Trump captured the biggest share of the conversation on Twitter during the debate, winning 33 percent of the conversation followed by Rubio at 20 percent and Cruz at 15 percent.
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