Normally, when Republicans go on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, they tend to try to take their lumps and walk off without much damage to their image. That, or they simply destroy Stewart on the facts alone, without contesting his root philosophy.

But Marco Rubio apparently didn’t want to follow either path. He wanted to try doing some genuine education on the show, and was ready to take Stewart on as a sparring partner. The result was a veritable duel of an extended interview that stretched over a half an hour, in which Rubio studiously and calmly kept contesting every premise that Jon Stewart threw at him. And while Stewart was visibly frustrated during chunks of the interview, Rubio had apparently won him over so thoroughly by the end that Stewart actually offered Rubio something close to an endorsement for his seriousness on the issues.

“When you hear that, you get this idea that, ‘oh, there may be some people brewing, some people that I don’t agree with, but who will return to a process of problem solving that is more rational than the one we have in place now,’” Stewart said. “That’s all that I think people are asking for, is a more rational problem solving process that gives you the sense that somebody is driving the boat, and who believes that boat is important to drive. I don’t know why I made a boat analogy.”

While Stewart didn’t explicitly single Rubio out as one of these noble boat drivers, it was clear who he was talking about from the context of the conversation – a conversation where, for once, Stewart had met an interlocutor who could match him.

The battle began when Stewart began trying to back Rubio into a corner over the question of whether Republicans were too enthusiastic in their usage of the filibuster. Rubio, stressing his desire not to get technical, still managed to rebut Stewart’s arguments by pointing out that the reason Republicans filibuster so much is because the Democrats don’t let them get in votes on amendments they support. Watch the exchange below:

The fight then moved onto the subject of taxes and budget ideas. And it was around here that Rubio really started showing his mettle, matching Stewart fact for fact and argument for argument, and even sometimes telling Stewart “That’s not accurate” when Stewart brought up particular “facts” that cast Republican budgetary ideas in a bad light. Rubio also completely blasted the idea of a “balanced approach” that Stewart kept repeating, pointing out that the goal for the Senate wasn’t to divvy up spoils between the two parties, but to solve the problems with the economy, which Rubio argued was only possible if sacred cows were scrapped:
But Rubio really hit his stride in the final stretch of the interview, where his refutations were so strong that Stewart was left with nothing to say other than his belief that Rubio and he weren’t even living “in the same solar system,” while still admitting that he admired Rubio’s sense of urgency in dealing with the issues. Ironically enough, Rubio even managed to shoot down Stewart’s accusation that they didn’t agree on anything, pointing out that they did agree on getting rid of tax loopholes by painstakingly walking Stewart back through earlier parts of the argument:
In the end, despite Stewart being visibly flustered, he gracefully called for applause for Rubio, which was surprisingly enthusiastic for a Daily Show audience. As Stewart said earlier in the discussion, “I can see why they like you.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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