Marco Rubio absolutely, positively wants to stay above the fray in the 2016 Republican presidential race.
But he sure knows how to tuck in jabs against frontrunner Donald Trump while trying to distance himself from Trump's attacks on him and other more establishment candidates.
The latest example: In an interview aired Monday on NPR, Rubio was asked about Trump's calling him a "clown" on Friday.
"I'm not interested in the back and forth," Rubio said -- only to deride Trump's "freak show."
"He is a very sensitive person. He doesn't like to be criticized. He responds to criticism very poorly," Rubio said. "His poll numbers have taken a beating and he was embarrassed on national television at the debate by Carly Fiorina and others."
"But this election is not going to be about Donald Trump," Rubio continued. "He thinks it is, but it's not about him. It has to be about the issues confronting our country. And my sense of it is that every time issues become prominent he will say something outrageous or do something outrageous so that he doesn't have to talk about the issues."
UPDATE: Asked about Rubio's comment in a New York news conference unveiling his tax plan, Trump again referred to Rubio as a "lightweight."
"Look, look. Sen. Rubio is a lightweight. We understand that. He wouldn't be able to do this. He wouldn't know a trade deal from any other deal. And what certain people are trying to do...
"We're going up very strongly in the polls. They don't know know what to do about it...
"I'm funding my own campaign. Guys like Rubio, I mean, he desperately needs money. Ask the car dealer in Florida." (That would be Norman Braman.) "Ask the people that support him..."
"A guy Rubio and others...they're largely controlled by their donors, the special interests and, frankly, more than anybody else, the lobbyists."