Rubio fends off attacks on experience and record during heated debate

In the most contentious Republican debate of the 2016 presidential race, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took shots for his attendance record on Capitol Hill from both the moderators and one of his constituents, Jeb Bush.

Hours after the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper published a scathing editorial that called for Rubio to resign from the Senate, Bush -- the former governor of Florida -- slammed his rival by saying that Rubio has skipped too many votes in the Senate as he campaigns for president.

Bush added that Rubio should do his job. He says "this was a 6-year term and you should be showing up to work."

"What is this a French work week?" Bush said in jest.

Bush, who has seen his poll number plummet recently as Rubio has become the Republican establishment favorite, told his fellow Floridian that if he didn't want to show up for votes, he should "just resign and let someone else take the job."

The attack was one of the harshest of the debate and was Bush's first chance to stand out in the crowded stage as he was overlooked by the moderators early on.

Rubio pushed back on the attack from both Bush and the moderators – saying media criticism of his voting record is an example of bias against conservatives and that Bush is only piling on the attack 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 said. "I’m running for the president of the United States."

The Florida lawmaker also dismissed concerns that he was too inexperienced and in too much of a hurry to advance his political career.

"That's exactly what the Republican establishment says, too,"’ Rubio said.  "Why don't you wait in line?  Wait for what?  This country is running out of time. We can't afford to have another four years like the last eight years."

Rubio later dismissed questions about whether his history of personal financial woes disqualifies him from being in charge of the federal government.

A bank once moved to foreclose one of Rubio's homes. He couldn't account for thousands of expenses from political committees he ran. Last year, he sold retirement funds to pay bills despite earning millions over the past decade.

Rubio dismissed those problems as discredited attacks from Democrats and said his struggles to provide for his four children are the reason he is pushing a tax plan that would help families. He also recounts his humble upbringing as the son of immigrant parents who worked as a bartender and a housekeeper to provide for their children.

Rubio wasn’t the only candidate to criticize CNBC’s line of questioning during the debate or the media coverage of the Republican presidential race.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz unleashed a diatribe, saying the questions being asked of him and other Republican candidates in the third debate were unfair.

He said they "illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match."

He said the CNBC moderators were more interested in pitting the candidates against one another rather than "talking about the substantive issues people care about. Cruz said the Republican debate is a stark contrast to the Democratic contest, "where every fawning question" was about "which one of you is more handsome and wise?"

Cruz’s response came to a question about whether his opposition to a budget deal in Congress shows that he's not a problem-solver.

The debate was billed as one that would center on economic issues. But the moderators at times focused more on the candidate’s characters and those on stage spent a fair amount of time griping about the media. The issue of immigration did make its way into the conversation.

Frontrunner Donald Trump, who brought the immigration to the forefront of GOP talking points earlier this summer, reiterated his claims that he would build a border wall if elected president and he would get Mexico to pay for it.

"We can do a wall," he said. "We're going to have a big, fat beautiful door right in the middle of the wall. We're going to have people come in, but they're coming in legally. And Mexico's going to pay for the wall."

Unlike other issues – and questions – immigration didn’t create the arguments that it had in previous debates.

While CNBC tried to lure Trump into going after Rubio for calling the Florida lawmaker "Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator" for supporting the tech visas, the real estate mogul demurred and instead said he supported legal immigration.

Trump has contended the H1B visa program, which allows immigrants in the tech industry to stay in the U.S., short-changes American workers. But at the debate, he claims he never made the statement and says he wants to keep skilled immigrant tech employees in the United States.

Rubio countered that programs that bring in more immigrants as high-tech workers are valuable and argued that companies who abuse the visa program should be penalized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter & Instagram