The third Republican presidential debate saw political rivals Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida come to blows. While the two Florida politicians were once close allies, their relationship has turned combative and came to a boil when Bush criticized Rubio for his senate voting record. Video below.
Former Florida governor Bush had been a mentor to Rubio when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Vox reports.
However, with both vying for the Republican presidential nomination, both men are now engaged in a contentious rivalry. Sharing their roots in Florida, both Bush and Rubio have been drawing from the same pool of donors, according to The Washington Post.
Bush entered the 2016 presidential race as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination but is now behind his former pupil in the polls. As of Oct. 25, Rubio is polling third in the race at nine percentage points while Bush is lagging behind with seven percent, according to Real Clear Politics.
Entering the Republican debate on Oct. 28, Rubio had come under attack for skipping roughly 30 percent of senate votes. To capitalize on the controversy, a Bush super PAC has been hammering the senator’s voting record with the Twitter account @IsMarcoWorking, Politico reports.
During the debate, Rubio was asked about his attendance record in the senate. He deflected the accusations about his work ethic as the media applying a double standard to Republican lawmakers. Bush interjected, using the opportunity to attack his former pupil.
“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work,” Bush began, according to Politico. “You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job."
Rubio quickly fired back, telling Bush “I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record. The only reason why you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."
Bush’s campaign has suffered after his perceived halfhearted debate performances. His team was hoping for him to hit a homerun on the Oct. 28 debate but he was given the least amount of airtime out of the 10 candidates, according to Politico.
Bush’s supporters have expressed dismay over his exchange with Rubio. What was designed to be an opportunity to cut down his Florida rival backfired on the former governor. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted that it was a “Mistake going after Rubio,” Huffington Post reports.
Bush and Rubio are competing for the same establishment donors, and their exchange could lead to mass defections from the former governor’s camp. Bush has already been drawing down his campaign payroll and number of consultants, and his donors are vocally losing confidence in him.
“Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake,” an anonymous Bush donor tells Politico. “No one cares about missed [expletive] votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that. The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.”
Bush’s campaign manager Danny Diaz did not dispute that Rubio won the exchange, but maintains that “I think we’re in for the long haul and we’re in to win,” reports Politico.
Rubio was asked about his rivalry with Bush on the Today Show on Oct. 29. He responds that “I'm not going to talk bad about Governor Jeb Bush,” according to The Washington Post. “My campaign is not about him."