BOULDER, Colo. — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Florida governor Jeb Bush had a Sunshine State showdown on stage at the Republican presidential debate here Wednesday evening.
Their exchange began after Rubio was questioned about an editorial published in Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper that argued he should resign due to reports he “hates” his job in the Senate and that he is missing a substantial number of votes while spending time on the campaign trail. Rubio responded by railing against the media. Bush piped in to express agreement with the newspaper.
“I’m a constituent of the senator, and I helped him, and I expected that he would do constituent service, which means that he shows up to work. He got endorsed by the Sun-Sentinel because he was the most talented guy in the field. He’s a gifted politician,” Bush said of Rubio before turning to face the senator. “But Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work. I mean, literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up.”
Bush went on to urge Rubio to “campaign or just resign.”
“Let someone else take the job,” Bush said. “There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida. … They’re looking for a senator that will fight for them each and every day.”
Rubio shot back by noting Bush, who has cut campaign staff and payroll after an underwhelming showing in the polls, has said he hopes to stage a comeback like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had in the 2008 presidential election.
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve listened to Jeb as you’ve walked around the country and said that you’re modeling your campaign after John McCain, that you’re going to launch a furious comeback the way he did, by fighting hard in New Hampshire and places like that, carrying your own bag at the airport,” Rubio began. “You know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you’re now modeling after?”
Bush tried to address the question, but Rubio cut him off.
“No, Jeb. … Let me tell you, I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s voting record,” Rubio said. “The only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”
The rebuttal earned Rubio loud applause from the audience at the University of Colorado’s Coors Events Center. Rubio concluded by vowing not to attack the other Republican candidates and emphasizing his “respect” for Bush.
“Here’s the bottom line. … My campaign is going to be about the future of America. It’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage,” Rubio said. “I will continue to have tremendous admiration and respect for Gov. Bush. I’m not running against Gov. Bush. I’m not running against anyone on this stage. I’m running for president because there is no way we can elect Hillary Clinton to continue the policies of Barack Obama.”