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Florida Senator Marco Rubio defended his repetitive critique of President Barack Obama during Saturday night’s presidential debate, saying he’d continue to argue that he believes Obama was calculating in his attempt to change the country.

Speaking to more than 500 supporters at Londonderry High School Sunday, Rubio made only a passing reference to the debate in which his performance was widely panned.

“You know, it’s interesting, right now, after last night’s debate, people were like, ‘Oh you said the same thing three or four times,’” Rubio said. “Well, I’m going to say it again: the reason why these things are in trouble is because Barack Obama is the first President, at least in my lifetime, that wants to change the country.”

Rubio sought to move past the moment Sunday, holding town halls in which the only reference to the debates were Rubio’s small defense and praise from a questioner of his answer on abortion. Rubio’s campaign contends the scene at the debate hall didn’t resonate with voters, many of whom are just tuning in to listen to the charismatic young Senator. That may yet prove to be the case, but what is clear is that the damage has already been done with the GOP establishment, which was readying to consolidate around Rubio after an expected strong finish in New Hampshire. Now, with the race more unsettled, and a new weakness in the debate exposed, many in the donor and pundit class are resigned to waiting until after South Carolina before trying to rally around a single candidate.

During Saturday’s debate, Rubio repeatedly argued that Obama was not an incompetent leader, seeking to undo eight years of GOP talking points, and that it was his ideology not inexperience that was wrong. “Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Rubio said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing.” But Rubio offered a near-verbatim version on the line four times during the debate, drawing criticism from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who called it the “memorized, 25-second speech,” and argued that Rubio did not have the experience needed to serve as President.

In an interview with ABC’s This Week, Rubio argued again that he’d keep making the argument against Obama. “It’s what I believe, and it’s what I’m going to continue to say, because it happens to be one of the main reasons why I am running,” he said.

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