During a campaign rally Tuesday in Iowa, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said Sen. Marco Rubio was sort of a traitor for deciding to run against his onetime mentor and friend, Gov. Jeb Bush.
“People thought it was very disrespectful to a person that brought him along — slowly,” Trump said at the rally in Dubuque.
“If I were Bush and I brought somebody along … and all of a sudden the guy, the young guy that I brought along, said: ‘I’m running against you and it's not my turn but I don't care because I'm really anxious, I'm really driven’ … I would really go after that guy. I’d say ‘He’s the most disloyal guy. He’s a terrible person. He’s horrible and I hate him.'"
Trump mocked the public amicable exchanges between Bush and Rubio, more recently at the first GOP debate a few weeks ago in Cleveland.
“They're hugging and they're kissing and they’re holding each other,” Trump said. “Very much like, actually, what Chris Christie did with the president."
When Bush announced what few found surprising – that he was running for president – his campaign’s designated surrogates did public appearances bringing up Rubio’s limited experience.
Rubio’s campaign, meanwhile, immediately revved up its “yesterday is over” theme, the Tampa Bay Times noted, adding “It was framed as an attack on [Hillary] Clinton, but it just happens to work on another level,” lending itself to being applied to Bush, as well.
"It's awkward for them and awkward for a lot of us," said state Rep. Dennis Baxley to the Times. He said that Rubio’s formidable qualities and momentum so far "has put a lot more people in a waiting posture."
Baxley continued, "If there is potential for a breakout candidate, it's Marco. Of course, the governor has so much history with us."
Some donors in Florida have been torn, too, and are sitting on the sidelines for more signs of which horse to get behind.
Publicly, the two men balk at attempts to pit them against each other.
"It's a little awkward," Bush said of competing with Rubio, his one-time mentee, in a Fox News interview. "I mean, look, he's a great guy. I admire him a lot."
Bush then noted: "I think I'm more experienced and qualified than anybody running. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think that I have the skills to fix these things and to lead our country."
"Governors have to make decisions," he said. "Senators don't. They can hide behind their collective body. I wasn't calling out any particular senator."
A veteran Miami-Dade political consultant, David Custin, explained it this way to Politico: “There’s a lot of passion, and this could almost literally come to blows … A lot of us, a lot of my Republican clients, don’t know what to do. They don’t want to pick a side. But they might have to.”
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