- Marco Rubio made light of criticism that he's too scripted after he flubbed a joke on the trail
- Rubio's line Tuesday was a nod to the ribbing he endured when he repeated five times, with minimal variation, a line attacking President Obama during ABC News's Republican presidential debate
Asked about his plan to raise the Social Security retirement age, Rubio responded, "Who would it impact? Me. I'm 44, I feel 46. I messed up the joke. I'll be 45 in May, but I feel 46. All right. That's what happens when you repeat something so many times."
The comment drew laughs from the crowd at the town hall event in South Carolina.
Rubio's line Tuesday was a nod to the ribbing he endured when he repeated five times, with minimal variation, a line attacking President Barack Obama during ABC News' Republican presidential debate earlier this month.
The Florida senator was savaged by his opponents over the gaffe -- most notably by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- and Rubio himself acknowledged that fallout from the debate blunted momentum from his strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, leading to a disappointing fifth-place showing in New Hampshire.
After the stumble, Rubio was even followed on the campaign trail by protesters dressed in robot costumes, a sarcastic wink at Rubio's formulaic delivery.
The spontaneous recovery by Rubio on the stump, though, squares with his effort to combat rival's portrayal of him as calculating and rehearsed, which are particularly poisonous labels in an election cycle in which the rise of insurgent candidates like Republican businessman Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination, reflects voters' desire for authentic candidates.