Marco Rubio's campaign is riding high after securing two big wins on Tuesday: one on the debate stage and one in the fundraising world.
While Rubio's second strong debate performance in a row is making headlines, his campaign is also celebrating the backing from another financial heavyweight to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. New York hedge fund manager Cliff Asness announced this week he was putting his chips on the Florida senator.
"We spent a lot of time thinking about it," Asness , the managing and founding principal of AQR Capital Management, told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday. "There are at least five Republican candidates I could see as president. There are at least two that are very hard to see as president."
Asness added: "Sen. Rubio does the best job of articulating the connection of free and dynamic markets – of freedom – to human flourishing…We thought about who would be a good president, times who could win."
Asness' endorsement not only adds his financial weight to Rubio's campaign, but also his outspokenness on economic issues. The hedge fund manager tussled with President Barack Obama in 2009, when the president called hedge funds "speculators" who refused "to sacrifice like everyone else" in a battle over the Chrysler LLC bailout.
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The support of Asness also comes just under two weeks after Elliot Management CEO and billionaire Paul Singer sent a letter to his network of donors announcing that he had decided to support Rubio. Asness is seen as a part of Singer's network and the two have teamed up in the past to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage around the country.
Asness and Singer backing Rubio is seen as a major shift in Wall Street away from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – who despite a solid debate performance on Tuesday has seen his stature as the GOP Establishment candidate plummet recently.
Bush, who pundits say had his strongest debate performance of the campaign season on Tuesday night, has recently gone on the offensive against Rubio – although the results have been mixed.
The tension first began to bubble during the CNBC debate in October 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."
A day before the Fox Business debate on Tuesday in Milwaukee, reports surfaced that a super PAC aiding Bush plans to release a series of attack ads critical of the freshman senator. In one ad, 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.
"I'm a huge Marco fan," Bush says in one clip. "He's probably the most articulate conservative on the scene today."
"[He has] the fortitude to be a good president," the former Florida governor says in another. "I'm so proud of his high-voltage energy. I'm so proud of his enthusiasm. I'm so proud of his eloquence."
The tension between the two candidates appeared to make its way on stage Tuesday night when footage seemed to show Bush rebuffing Rubio's attempt to speak to him during a commercial break. As the lights on stage dimmed, Rubio approached Bush, but the former governor appears to shake his head and Rubio moves on to chat with Donald Trump.
Rubio, however, downplayed the incident during an appearance on "Good Morning America," saying that it was not a big deal.
"It looked that way, but that's not what happened. We were fine," he said.
Rubio said that he doesn't take anything personally during a presidential campaign, adding: "I know it makes for an interesting Vine video, but it really wasn't anything of meaning."