BOULDER, Colorado — Mic drop.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) so solidified his standing as the new establishment frontrunner on Wednesday evening here in the CNBC debate that Rubio’s team wouldn’t even comment on the poor performance by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“None,” Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan told Breitbart News when asked if he had any comment on how Bush performed in the debate.
Then Sullivan broke out laughing while he pretended to eavesdrop on what Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz was telling reporters in the post-debate spin-room.
Moments earlier, Diaz had slammed Rubio. “Look, we think Marco Rubio is an outstanding performer,” Diaz said. “We knew that going in, and we knew that coming out. But the reality is he doesn’t have a record of accomplishment. The reality is he hasn’t demonstrated that he’s qualified to be president.”
Diaz—and Bush, when he made the same argument during the debate—may be right about the substance of that criticism against Rubio. Rubio’s comments on his voting-record, and his comments on immigration especially with regard to H-1B visas, are going to receive extra scrutiny in the coming days.
But his smooth delivery came off as appealing and honest, something that’s sure to give Rubio a boost in coming days heading into the next debate in Milwaukee.
Bush’s awkward delivery — and what GOP frontrunner Donald Trump says is “low energy” — was on display yet again this evening. His performance was so bad that Diaz fielded numerous questions from reporters in the spin-room about whether Bush will drop out soon.
Diaz told Breitbart News that Bush will be in the race until the end, “and win,” before another reporter asked if Bush would be in forever.
“I think we’re in for the long haul and we’re in to win,” Diaz replied. The reporter then asked Diaz what the odds were that Bush would stay in until voting begins in Iowa at the beginning of February.
The big battle between Bush and Rubio took place when CNBC co-moderator Carl Quintanilla asked Rubio about his voting record, and asked why he doesn’t postpone a presidential run until he has accomplished more. Rubio has the worst attendance record of anyone in the entire U.S. Senate.
“That’s exactly what the Republican establishment said too, ‘Why don’t you wait in line?’” Rubio replied.
“Wait for what? This country is running out of time. We can’t afford to have another four years like the last eight years. Watching this broadcast tonight are millions of people that are living paycheck to paycheck. They are working as hard as they ever have. Everything costs more, and they haven’t had a raise in decades. You have small businesses in America that are struggling for the first time in 35 years. We have more businesses closing than starting. We have a world that’s out of control and has grown dangerous and a President that is weakening our military and making our foreign policy unstable and unreliable in the eyes of our allies, and our adversaries continue to grow stronger. They say there is no bipartisanship in Washington. We have a $19 trillion bipartisan debt, and it continues to grow as we borrow money from countries that do not like us to pay for government we cannot afford. The time to act is now. The time to turn the page is now. If we don’t act now, we are going to be the first generation in American history that leaves our children worse off than ourselves.”
Quintanilla followed up by asking Rubio about the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s editorial this week. Th editorial said Rubio should drop out of the race and resign from the Senate over his attendance record.
Substance aside, style-wise Rubio nailed the answer. “Let me say, I read that editorial today with a great amusement,” Rubio said. “It’s actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would later support Rubio on his criticism of the media.
But Quintanilla attempted to drill down further with the next question, asking Rubio: “Do you hate your job?”
Rubio killed it again, style-wise, in his response.
“Let me answer your question on the Sun-Sentinel editorial today. Back in 2004, one of my predecessors to the senate by the name of Bob Graham, a Democrat, ran for President, missing over 30 percent of his votes. I don’t recall them calling for his resignation. Later that year, in 2004, John Kerry ran for President, missing close to 60 to 70 percent of his votes. I don’t recall the Sun — in fact, the Sun-Sentinel endorsed him. In 2008, Barack Obama missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes, and the same newspaper endorsed him again. So this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative—”
At that point, Bush tried to jump in—and he hit Rubio hard, asking if he did a “French work-week.”
“Can I say something up here, because 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,” Bush said.
“He got endorsed by the Sun-Sentinel, because he was the most talented guy in the field. He’s a gifted politician. 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 workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up? You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job. There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida as well. They are looking for a senator that will fight for them each and every day.”
Rubio responded skillfully.
“Well, it’s interesting. Over the last few weeks, I have listened to Jeb as he’s 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. Do you know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you’re now modeling after?”
“He wasn’t –“ Bush attempted to interject.
“Jeb, I don’t remember — well, let me tell you, I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why 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,” Rubio continued, talking over Bush while the audience cheered.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Rubio continued.
“My campaign is going to be about the future of America. It’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage. I will continue to have tremendous admiration and respect for Governor Bush. I’m not running against Governor Bush. I’m not running against anyone on this stage. I am running for President, because there is no way we can elect Hillary Clinton to continue the policies.”
From there, the conversation between Bush and the moderators turned to why his lectern was off to the side since he’s seen a significant drop off in the polls. And that’s when Bush fizzled away and lost any chance of turning this debate into a positive rather than a negative.