Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is pushing back against rival Jeb Bush, after reports surfaced on Monday that a super PAC aiding the former Florida governor's White House run plans to release a series of attack ads critical of the freshman senator.
According to the New York Times, a group backing Bush with a large war chest is preparing to air the first of a number of ads critical of Rubio. In this one, voters in New Hampshire are shown describing how they feel about Rubio missing votes in the U.S. Senate.
Rubio's camp released its own response video calling out Bush for making "phony attacks" and noting that the former Florida governor has in the past had high praise for his in-state rival, going so far as to say that he would make a good president.
"What Marco has, I think, is something the Republican Party needs to have, which is a hopeful, optimistic message based on our principles," Bush is quoted as saying in one of the clips included in the video released by the Rubio campaign.
"I'm a huge Marco fan," Bush says in another. "He's probably the most articulate conservative on the scene today."
"[He has] the fortitude to be a good president," Bush comments in a third clip. "I'm so proud of his high-voltage energy. I'm so proud of his enthusiasm. I'm so proud of his eloquence."
The ad opens with the words, "Before Jeb Bush started the phony attack, he said this about Marco Rubio."
The rancor between the two presidential candidates has been simmering for much of the presidential campaign season but has recently boiled up as Rubio's poll numbers rise while Bush's continue to plummet.
It finally bubbled over during the most recent GOP debate when Bush went after Rubio for his lack of experience and for missing votes in the Senate.
Rubio countered by saying that Bush was only criticizing him because "we're running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me will help you."
"I'm not running against Governor Bush, I'm not running against anyone on stage," Rubio continued. "I'm running for the president of the United States."
There is speculation that the ads will come primarily from Right to Rise, a super PAC that has raised more than $100 million for Bush. Its top strategist, Mike Murphy, would not detail its strategy but did not dispute that Rubio was a main target.
"Part of running for president is you have to put your big boy pants on and get vetted on the issues so we know we don't have a dud candidate running against Hillary Clinton," Murphy told the Times.
Some people close to Bush, however, are warning his campaign to back away from attacking on Rubio – as it could damage Bush's name and may not do any good in either resurrecting his campaign or taking down Rubio, whom many see as the Republican Party's future.
"At the end of the day, wisdom dictates that an internecine fight between the two is unnecessary and potentially damaging to both," Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier and Bush fund-raiser, told the Times.