Newt Gingrich is as clueless as he is presumptuous. Yesterday, he trekked around Florida comparing himself to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mitt Romney to the party-switching milquetoast Charlie Crist. Rubio was having none of it and in a rare moment decide to intervene in the GOP presidential race. He put out a statement: “Mitt Romney is no Charlie Crist. Romney is a conservative. And he was one of the first national Republican leaders to endorse me. He came to Florida, campaigned hard for me, and made a real difference in my race.” Boom.

Rubio’s nod certainly is welcomed by the Romney camp. Rubio continues to distinguish himself not only in the Senate but also in the party at large. His video response to the president’s State of the Union address confirms that, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), he has become a prominent antagonist of the president.

Gingrich’s misstep — in essence, forcing Rubio to comment on the race, in which he pledged neutrality — is not unlike Gingrich’s suck-uppery regarding former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. Gingrich declared Bolton to be his choice for secretary of state; Bolton shortly thereafter robustly endorsed Romney, citing his “executive temperament.” Gingrich apparently overestimates his appeal among named conservatives.

A prudent, well-organized candidate would reach out to figures in advance of his statements to make sure he’s not going to get embarrassed. But Gingrich is neither prudent nor well organized. Moreover, he believes his own spin and assumes others share his distorted view of himself and reality.

It is not unexpected to the political astute that Rubio would lend Romney a hand. Romney was the first (and only among presidential contenders) to publicly defend Rubio from press attacks that he had somehow falsified his family immigration story.

It remains to be seen whether Romney can capitalize on Rubio’s comments. What we do know is that even before the Crist diversion, Gingrich had been forced to spend a great deal of time denying he lobbied for Freddie Mac, arguing that he left Congress “voluntarily,”stomping his foot about debate rules stifling his cheering section and trying to fend off attacks on his character and erratic leadership. Has he lost a positive message? We'll find out more in tomorrow’s debate. For now, however, Gingrich remains his own worst enemy.

UPDATE (10:15 a.m.): Giingrich has done it again. The Miami Herald reports:

Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant”

“This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.

“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”

Rubio’s sharp rebuke comes a day after he subtly corrected Gingrich for comparing Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, branded by conservatives as a turncoat who left the party before Rubio beat him in 2010.

Rubio may be technically neutral but he’s doing a fairly good job of undermining Gingrich.