OPINION

Rick Sanchez: Heated relationship between Bush and Rubio has taken Miami by storm

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28:  Presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R) (R-FL) speaks while Jeb Bush looks on during the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorados Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado.  Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R) (R-FL) speaks while Jeb Bush looks on during the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorados Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

To the rest of the country, they are simply two politicians — two among a throng of GOP candidates vying for attention. But for residents of South Florida’s Hispanic community, it cuts much closer to home.  

The sudden, heated relationship between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio has taken Miami by storm. Both have histories as darlings of the powerful and politically plugged-in Hispanic community, which is why their public feud is now hurting them both.  

In a town filled with Hispanic conservatives who’ve fled countries like Cuba and Venezuela and are critical of government dependency and the laziness it seems to breed, a questionable work ethic is no small thing.

- Rick Sanchez

For the first time, voters in South Florida are being mandated to make a choice. In a relationship there can be two winners, but not in a fight. And the mud slinging, which began with the debate back-fighting between Bush and Rubio, is causing the hometown boys, for the first time ever, to be seen not as mere rivals — but rather as political enemies.     

In Miami, it seems everybody has at least taken note or is taking sides. The bad news for Bush is that he got his clock cleaned by Rubio during the CNBC debate flurry. Meanwhile, the bad news for Rubio is that despite his brilliant retort in taking down his mentor, he was exposed as a senator who simply wasn’t showing up for work.

There are two things at work here. In a town filled with Hispanic conservatives who’ve fled countries like Cuba and Venezuela and are critical of government dependency and the laziness it seems to breed, a questionable work ethic is no small thing. That is why today in Miami, you’re more apt to hear, “Marco crushed him, but Jeb was right.” It is why Rubio’s criticism of the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel Editorial blasting his work ethic hit close to home for South Floridians. And because the Sun Sentinel has consistently endorsed Rubio, the candidate’s cries of liberal media bias are not ringing true.  

But Florida’s Reagan-loving Hispanics also revere strength, which is why Bush’s rope-a-dope technique, taking a punch at Rubio and then trying to withstand his barrage, made him seem weak. In the short run, there is no question that Rubio is the winner. But in the long run, if and when the field is winnowed and it comes down to the two “establishment” GOP candidates, Bush will have to stick to his guns. By choosing to publicly expose Rubio’s weaknesses, he’s opened the door. Now, he has to go in guns a blazing, or go home.       

Rick Sanchez is a contributor for Fox News Latino.

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