In mid-December, Sen. Marco Rubio released a TV ad in which the candidate declared, "This election is about the essence of America, about all of us who feel out of place in our country ... millions with traditional values branded bigots and haters."

Was Marco Rubio's Ad "Nativist"?

That ruffled the feathers of MSNBC's conservative host Joe Scarborough, who tweeted "Marco goes full-on nativist. Says he feels out of place in his own country. It's such a crass play. It's offensive."

The Rubio campaign saw an opportunity, and whipped out a fundraising email using Scarborough as a foil: "elitist members of the media, like MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, are claiming Marco's remarks are 'nativist' ... Here's what's going on: Marco's message is catching on. Democrats, the media, and the political establishment on both sides know it – and they're absolutely petrified."

However, there is an old saying: "Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." That may apply to TV hosts as well as old newspaper reporters.

Should Candidates Take Potshots At TV Hosts?

Scarborough's show "Morning Joe" aired the fundraising email, as a precursor to a Scarborough tirade against Rubio that undermines the candidate's carefully cultivated salt-of-the-earth persona: "Here's a guy that flies around in private jets every day, and he has for years. Here's a guy that sits in luxury suites at Miami Dolphins football games ... Here's a guy that got paid $800,000 by a massive powerful Manhattan publishing company ... more than most of the people he's shaking hands with make in 10 years; he makes it for writing a book. And he's got the guts to ... lift a line from this nativist playbook ... because he wants to appeal to Donald Trump's crowd? .... This is what a student government president does when he wants to get elected..."

Who wins the scuffle? On one hand, conservative voters have no love for the "lamestream media" – many see Scarborough as a moderate and an apostate – and Rubio is speaking their language. But while Scarborough's megaphone may not reach the GOP primary electorate, it does reach insiders who can shape media narratives.

At a minimum, by elevating the dispute, Rubio has taken a considerable risk.

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