Marco Rubio says he doesn't want to be part of Donald Trump's 'freak show'

Marco Rubio (left) and Donald Trump. (Photos: Rubio, Associated Press; Trump: Getty Images)

Marco Rubio (left) and Donald Trump. (Photos: Rubio, Associated Press; Trump: Getty Images)

The war of words between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio has taken a left-hand turn into carnival land.

The junior senator from Florida responded to the real estate mogul calling him a “clown” by telling NPR that he doesn’t want to get sucked into the Trump “freak show.”

Closing a wide-ranging interview broadcast Monday morning that touched on the crisis in Syria, relations with Russia and the looming budget showdown, Rubio was asked about Trump having referred to him as “this clown” at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

“I’m not interested in the back and forth to be a member or a part of his freak show,” Rubio answered, noting that Trump's line drew boos from the crowd of social conservatives.

He also defended his own escalation of the verbal sparring between the two contenders for the Republican presidential nomination when he called Trump “touchy.”

"He is a very sensitive person," Rubio told NPR. "He doesn't like to be criticized ... His poll numbers have taken a beating, and he was embarrassed on national television at the debate by Carly Fiorina and others."

Rubio went on to say, “This election’s not going to be about Donald Trump. He thinks it is.”

The senator also repeated his charge that Trump lacks substance on policy. “My sense of [him] is that every time the issues become prominent he will say something outrageous or do something outrageous so he doesn’t have to talk about the issues.”

When he was asked about the budget battle over whether or not to defund Planned Parenthood, Rubio said he didn’t want to see the government shut down, but the Democrats may force that if they insist on funding the organization, which helps some pregnant women abortions.

Much of the blame for the impasse, he suggested, falls on the shoulders of the current GOP leadership, including outgoing House Speaker John Boehner.

“They never even tried [to make their case],” Rubio said. “They didn’t think we could win the public debate.”

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