Reporters say they're embarrassed for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., now that he has started to talk and jab like GOP front-runner Donald Trump, whose every insult and smear has earned the businessman eight months of unbroken media coverage.
"Rubio engaging in remarkably lowbrow politics. Does 'but Trump' make it easier to explain to kids?" the New York Times' Jonathan Martin complained this week.
The Associated Press' Tia Goldenberg added in a note of her own, "Such meaningful, important discourse going on in #America."
"Rubio tonite [sic] mocking Trump's 'small hands.' And 'spray tan.' This is what political discourse has become in 2016. It's sad & embarrassing," NBC senior political desk editor Doug Adams fretted this weekend.
The Florida senator took on a new strategy after a GOP primary debate last week, and started going after Trump directly with increasingly personal insults.
"He's always calling me 'Little Marco,' … and I'll admit he's taller than me, he's 6-foot-2, which is why I don't understand why he has hands the size of someone who's 5-foot-2," Rubio said this weekend at a rally in Virginia.
"Have you seen his hands? You know what they say about men with small hands," he added to the delight of his audience. "You can't trust them. You can't trust them. You can't trust them. All right? You can't trust them."
Some reporters have reacted to Rubio's new line of attack by signaling that they are very shocked, concerned and embarrassed that it has come to this.
Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, whose network has provided Trump with hours and hours of positive coverage, opined Monday evening, "I would say that this was not particularly inspirational, these past few weeks."
She added that Rubio has descended, "down in the gutter."
CNN's Anderson Cooper, whose network has also covered Trump more than any other 2016 presidential candidate, compared Rubio's jokes to "a real house wives reunion episode."
Missing from these criticisms is any reflection on why Rubio has gone after Trump is the businessman's own blustering style.
Since announcing his candidacy in June 2015, Trump has dominated headlines and captivated newsrooms everywhere.
The casino tycoon has enjoyed eight straight months of unbroken coverage, and has easily outpaced all of his opponents, both Democratic and Republican, in terms of media mentions and panel discussions.
Trump has had his face on the front of every major newspaper, cable networks have covered nearly every word out of his mouth, and the major networks — including CBS, ABC and NBC News — have led countless evening newscasts with stories about the former reality TV star's bid for the White House.
Numerous Trump rallies have been covered live by the cable networks, with many of them refusing to break even for commercials, and the 2016 GOP front-runner has been hosted for multiple hour-long primetime specials on Fox News.
In the time that the press has flooded the zone with coverage of all things Trump, the GOP front-runner has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers to the United States.
In July, he ridiculed Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., military record, and suggested the senator was a phony war hero. In August, he seemingly suggested that Fox's Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she moderated the first GOP primary debate in August. In November, amid backlash over his erroneous claim he saw "thousands" of Muslims cheering in New Jersey during the Sept. 11 attacks, Trump mocked a reporter with disabilities.
That same month, Trump compared GOP rival Dr. Ben Carson to a child molester, and said during a rally that there is no cure for this "pathological disease."
None of these remarks slowed media's coverage of Trump. On the contrary, his earned media increased with each new insult and personal attack.
For example, in September, during Trump's back-and-forth with Kelly, and back when there were still 17 GOP contenders, CNN gave the GOP front-runner 3.5 times more coverage than it gave to the other 16 candidates combined.
And though much of the coverage has been negative, this likely matters very little to the candidate who once wrote, "even a critical story, which may be hurtful personally, can be very valuable to your business."
"One thing I've learned about the press is that they're always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It's in the nature of the job, and I understand that," Trump wrote in 1987.
"The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you. I've always done things a little differently, I don't mind controversy, and my deals tend to be somewhat ambitious," he added. "The result is that the press has always wanted to write about me."
It's a strategy that Trump seems to have deployed to great effect in 2016.
The number of headlines and evening broadcasts dedicated solely to the businessman's campaign have increased over the past eight months with each new insult and jab, and it has effectively drowned out all of his GOP primary opponents.
But now that Rubio is slinging jabs and insults at Trump, mocking everything from the real estate mogul's spray tan to his stubby fingers, things have apparently gone too far, according to certain media personalities.
"Trump has broken Rubio. This is embarrassing," the News Herald's Dustin Kent said on social media.
Then again, not everyone in the press sees it that way, and some reporters have suggested that there's a reason behind the Florida senator's new line of attack.
"Strategically, what Rubio is doing may be smart. Nothing the GOP establishment has tried has stopped Trump's momentum, and the candidates are just now starting to aggressively go after the front-runner," wrote the Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel.
"Pure mockery might be their last best hope," she added, adding a note of warning, "But sinking to that level and saying 'he started it' never makes you look good in the end, and it is making many in the Republican Party — which likes to be known as the party of ideas — groan."
Her Huffington Post colleague, Igor Bobic, noted Monday morning that networks were now carrying Rubio rallies, saying, "First time I can remember MSNBC actually airing substantial portions of a Rubio rally live. Credit the p-nis jokes?"
The Atlantic's James Fallow wrote separately in an article, "[C]redit to Rubio for figuring out even now that the best way to undermine a posturing blowhard is to make people laugh at him."
And Fallow has a point: Rubio's pivot to Trump-related insults captivated the press this weekend.
On Friday, the Florida senator received the most amount of attention from cable news and the major networks since the Iowa caucuses, proving Trump's point about media and controversy.
Rubio eased off the jokes Monday evening, telling a crowd of supporters that it was fun while it lasted, but that it's now time to get serious.
Dear media, if you're lamenting state of GOP race but you recently started showing Rubio's speeches live, you may want to take a step back— Micah Cohen (@micahcohen) February 29, 2016
Meanwhile, the major networks dedicated more than 62 percent of their coverage Monday evening — the eve of Super Tuesday — to covering Trump's campaign.