Supporters of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his onetime mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are increasingly divided over their loyalties, Politico
reports, in a story headlined "Marco Rubio rise sets collision course with Jeb Bush."
With his vast name recognition and deep pockets, Bush has been considered the front-runner for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, though he has yet to announce his candidacy.
Both men have heaped praise on the other, and vowed to avoid personal attacks and instead focus on ideas for the country.
But Rubio has embarked on making subtle yet "customary" jabs directed at Bush, according to Politico, similar to the one he made Tuesday at an economic growth summit hosted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
In a pre-recorded video, Rubio told the crowd that "our outdated leaders continue to cling to outdated ideas. I believe the time has come for a new generation of leaders."
Bush has not taken the bait. When asked about it by Politico, he responded that "it’s kind of hard to imagine that my good friend Marco would be critical of his good friend Jeb."
In April, The New York Times
reported that the longtime friends' relationship had begun to fray, evidenced by Bush allies "quietly spreading negative information about Rubio's record."
The clash is inevitable, Bush adviser and Rubio pal Al Cardenas told the Times.
"Sparks are going to fly," he said. "For the first time in our country's history you've got two guys from the same town in the same state from same party running in the same primary.
"You can bet that regardless of how nice Jeb or Marco wants to be, their staffs are going to do anything they can to win."
Former Florida Sen. George LeMieux, a Bush supporter, suggested that divided Sunshine State Republicans are "conflicted" and feeling the pressure of the state’s critical role in deciding who gets the nomination.
"It’s hard," LeMieux said.
Tallahassee-based Republican lobbyist Brian Ballard, who is fundraising for Bush, told Politico that most big donors "like Jeb, but there’s growing interest in Marco."
"The more people hear what he has to say, the more traction he gets," Ballard said.
Politics is a "rambunctious deal," Bush told the crowd at the Tuesday forum, intimating that all the candidates should expect a hard fought race.
"We’ve got 75 people running I think, last time I checked? I hadn’t checked how many people announced today," he joked. "But it’s a big field. It’ll be competitive. There’s gonna be some elbows and knees under the boards. This isn’t tiddlywinks we’re playing."
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