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Rubio goes into repeat mode

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Marco Rubio went into repetition mode during Saturday night's debate, going back to the same line over and over again to defend against comparisons to Barack Obama.

“Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” the Florida senator said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to change this country.”

Rubio would go on to reiterate that argument, nearly word-for-word, several times over the course of a single exchange with Chris Christie, who said that Rubio's inexperience mirrored Obama's. “This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing…” Rubio continued again before Christie interjected to accuse Rubio of being overly scripted.

The performance came after a week in which Christie insisted the senator is wedded to his talking points but can't get beyond that, and the New Jersey governor pounded that point as the two argued.

"There it is, the memorized 25-second speech," Christie said. "There it is, everyone."

Rubio went on to invoke Obama again as he sought to provide an answer for handling a nuclear-capable North Korea.

Rubio’s careful hewing to his line on Obama sometimes put the senator in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing with criticism of the Democratic president.

“Marco said earlier on Obama knows exactly what he’s doing,” Donald Trump said. “I disagree respectfully with Marco. I think we have a president who, as a president, is totally incompetent, and doesn’t know what he’s doing. I think he has no idea what he’s doing. The country is going to hell. I just want to say we disagree with that. Is that OK?”

“Yeah,” Rubio replied with a smile, before saying he wanted to respond. Moments later, he was back to his evening’s biggest talking point: another anti-Obama bromide. “Barack Obama views America as this arrogant global power that needed to be cut down to size,” he said.

Moments later, Rubio was back on his theme of an "intentional" Obama, listing off a string of Obama's actions and insisting each "wasn't an accident."