Brzezinski tentatively brought the issue up by asking the Florida Republican, "Do you think there are some folks on the list who shouldn't be?"
When Rubio replied that it wasn't a decision but a process, the MSNBC host immediately interjected, asking for his opinion. Rubio replied again, invoking how Barack Obama became a much better candidate by being challenged so hard by Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party nomination in 2008.
Brzezinski came back, asking if he though some of the answers asked at the debates had been "sub-par?"
The Senator admitted that some of the answers would need to be refined, and again brought up Obama.
Brzezinski then asked "Are you proud and confident in the entire Republican presidential field?"
Rubio this time responded by saying he was confident that the party would nominate a "legitimate and effective alternative to the direction that President Obama has taken and wants to continue to take our country. And ultimately, that's what these elections need to be about, and that is a choice, between two competing visions of the future. I hope we'll get that choice in 2012 and, as a Republican, I'll do whatever I can to make that happen."
Then guest Donnie Deutch took a shot, telling Rubio that when he watched Herman Cain struggle on the Libya question ,"you can't be proud of that? .. That is the guy leading in the polls, and he clearly does not have the command of the issues....you can't be proud of your party when he's the front and center guy?"
Au contraire, Rubio's body language screamed. He said he gave Cain the benefit of the doubt that the candidate was tired (one such excuse given by Team Cain), but said that he was confident by late winter or early spring, "We are going to nominate someone in our party who that will have answers to these questions, and present a legitimate and effective alternative to the direction the President has taken our country, both on foreign relations and domestic policies."
Finally, the heavy hitter on the panel who had remained silent until then, Chris Matthews, on the show as a guest, blasted the entire GOP presidential field as an "embarrassment," and, slightly unhinged, shouted at both Senators, before telling Rubio that he would be a better candidate than the current field. "Aren't you embarrassed by these people? Cain and Perry? At least Mitt Romney, whatever you think of him, he may be a little 'wiggly' on the issues, but at least he looks like he got up in the morning and read the newspaper. Isn't that the minimal of politicians? To read the paper?," the Hardball host sputtered.
Rubio said he thought the party would be okay. He then rejected Deutch's comment about him being a vice presidential hopeful.