"Is there any evidence that Rubio’s insults against Trump worked?" Well, that depends upon what the objective was; if the idea was to vault the Floridian to the top of the polls in a massive comeback, then no, that hasn't materialized. If the point was to expose Trump's "glass jaw," start treating him like a frontrunner - i.e. with a target on every part of his anatomy (including his "fingers") - and finally, belatedly, hack him down to size for somebody's (i.e. Ted Cruz) benefit, and at least deny him a delegate majority come the convention, then I'd say it's been a rousing success:
Trump is down and everybody else is up. He's still leading nationally, but now that lead is down to single digits. He's starting to lose States to Ted Cruz, and even Marco Rubio, with regularity. A race that he built his political "brand" on dominating is now much more competitive than it was ever supposed to be. Had The Donald been a lot more prudent about managing expectations, he'd still be seen as, if not the front-runner, than certainly doing unheard-of well for an official political neophyte/"outsider". But because he's made his candidacy's yardstick total success, just like with every other "property" project he's ever undertaken - with burgeoningly similar ultimate results, I 'might add - the perception is that the bloom has come off his "rose," and that his campaign is stalling - and that he's vulnerable.
This trend is in every metric of the ABC News/Washington Post poll, too:
Favorable ratings also indicate an increasingly tenuous standing within the party. In early January, Republicans clearly gave Trump more favorable than unfavorable reviews, 60% to 39%. That has narrowed to a 53%-46% margin, with negative marks at their highest level in Post-ABC polling since Trump entered the race. His positive ratings also trail Cruz’s 64% and Rubio’s 63%.
The Post-ABC poll finds that more than half of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents think Trump is dishonest, does not understand their problems, lacks the right experience, and does not have the right personality and temperament to be an effective president. By contrast, more than six in ten Republicans say Cruz is honest, empathetic, and has the right temperament and experience; similar shares say Rubio has the first three qualities, while half say he has the right experience.
In a hypothetical head-to-head test of strength between Trump and Cruz, Republicans say they prefer the senator by 54% to 41%. Rubio is a narrower favorite in a one-on-one test against Trump, with an edge of 51% to 45%.
There's that irrational dichotomy again, where voters give every reason why they should be backing Cruz or Rubio and rejecting Trump, and yet Trump is still on top. But by an ever-diminishing margin, the causitive factor traceable back to when the two freshmen senators formed their debate tag-team and started whaling on the millionaire slumlord like the entire GOP field should have been months ago. How he regains that momentum and perceived dominance when he no longer enjoys the privilege of running functionally untouched and unopposed is a very good question, and underscores the difficulty in which he is.
And the following didn't help:
BRZEZINSKI: So I think I’ll start off by asking you a question I’ve asked you three times now since we’re a talking about foreign policy. I think it was twenty days ago now our town hall where you said you’d be announcing a foreign policy team and you said then it would be a week and then last time we talked to, last week you said it would be soon. You’ve mentioned one name, Jeff Sessions. Who is on your foreign policy team? Who are the giants that are going to join you?
TRUMP: Well, I’ve already got Jeff Sessions. He’s endorsed me. Well I’m not doing it this morning, Mika, you do always ask me that question. I said I would have it in due time and I’ve been meeting with some tremendous people and I haven’t made exactly my decision yet but you’ll have it in due time.
He's staaaaaaaling. And Mika Brzezinski just ran out of patience with it, which is not a good sign for Hairboy.
Now get a load of this answer:
BRZEZINSKI: Is there a team?
TRUMP: Yes, there is a team. There’s not a team. I’m going to be forming a team. I have met with far more than three people and I will be forming a team at the appropriate time.
BRZEZINSKI: I am just —
SCARBOROUGH: So Donald, there has been a lot of, there has been a lot of talk about your rallies where you actually ask people to raise their hands if they’re going to support you, they uh, Mika, you look upset. do you want to follow up again with this foreign policy team? Donald, she’s giving me that look.
BRZEZINSKI: It’s just to me at some point there have to be people who will stand by your side and take on global strategy and some ideas that you find important that they bring to the table. Who are these people? [emphases added]
Yes, there is, no there isn't, I'll get back to you. A blatant contradiction/lie and another punt. Does this look like any kind of "alpha male strength" that any of you have ever seen, heard, or even conceived of? My definition of that phrase just isn't that elastic. "Shifty, dishonest, and evasive" and perhaps (heh) "lightweight," on the other hand, fit like a glove.
Donald Trump is utterly and completely out of his depth. He doesn't know or understand foreign policy, and his bravado-drenched "I'm gonna bomb the shit out of ISIS" and "I'm gonna torture jihadists and murder their families" and "I want to have Vladimir Putin's baby" quip-storms never should have "cut it" at all, and are at last no longer doing so now. And since Cruz and Rubio, as U.S. Senators, already have foreign policy advisors and experience, both of which Trump is bereft, it's incumbent upon him to go out and buy the best such "free agent" talent available ASAP. Except that it's much less likely that any such talent will bite given the foreign policy recklessness he's displayed already. And the foolish Jeff Sessions, who's great on immigration but is no foreign affairs specialist, like Trump's rhetorical penis-measuring quotes, isn't going to cut it.
Are Republican voters, kicking and screaming, being dragged back to sanity? It sure looks that way. Has it come in time to save the Party's soul? That remains to be seen.