POLITICS

Jeb Bush says he did not know contents of 112-page memo about rival Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush during the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015.

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush during the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015.  (ap)

It was huge by memo standards – 112 pages – and its focus was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s one-time mentee and friend, Sen. Marco Rubio.

It laid out details and theories about Bush’s rival for the Oval Office, and how Bush might frame them to the public to gain an edge over Rubio, his fellow Floridian.

But Bush said he was not privy to the contents of the memo, drafted by his campaign staff, before it was leaked recently.

“I didn’t see it,” Bush said in an interview that was broadcast on NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Well, I read about it when it was leaked for sure. I didn't know about the PowerPoint.”

Bush said that he was intent on keeping his campaign focused on issues, but added that comparisons with other candidates was inevitable.

"Comparing and contrasting is part of this, but the basis of my campaign is that we can fix these problems and people can be lifted out of poverty and the great middle can get rising income again," Bush said in the NBC interview. "That is the purpose of my campaign."

Bush again addressed Rubio’s absenteeism from voting on Senate measures. In the last GOP debate, Bush assailed Rubio for missing so many votes, saying that he was neglecting the job the people of Florida had elected him to do as their representative in Congress.

"The basic point with Marco isn't that he's not a good person or he's not a gifted politician; everybody can see that. It's that I have proven leadership skills," Bush said. "I got to be governor of a state and accomplish big things. And in this era of gridlock, it's really hard to break through, and I think he's given up. And I think that's the wrong thing to do."

The document, which was intended to raise red flags about Rubio for potential donors, describes the senator as almost shady, according to U. S. News & World Report, which obtained a copy of it.

A section called "Marco Is A Risky Bet" talks about the senator’s "misuse of state party credit cards, taxpayer funds and ties to scandal-tarred former Congressman David Rivera."

U.S. News says that as a state lawmaker, Rubio used a state GOP credit card for personal use, something he acknowledged eventually was wrong.

Rubio, the memo noted, also took part in a joint purchase of a house in Florida that ended up in foreclosure.

The document also shows how campaign staff cast Rubio’s message about the country’s need for new, fresh ideas – instead of the ones of “yesterday” – would be “widely ridiculed by the media” in the general election next year because the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, would be in a position to be the first female U.S. president.

It also sought to draw comparisons between Rubio and President Barack Obama when he ran for the Oval Office as a freshman senator from Illinois – chiefly, their lack of political executive experience.

For his part, Rubio dismissed the hoopla about the memo. He has characterized Bush’s new aggressive approach toward him as a likely result of the former governor’s campaign staff feeling desperate because of their candidate’s declining strength in polls of GOP voters and among likely donors.

“I can’t control other people’s campaigns,” he said. “I can control mine. Mine is going to continue to be about the future of America.”

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