Neither former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., nor Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. have announced their plans to run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, but both are already speaking and acting like contenders, going head to head on issues such as immigration and education reform.
Bush said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that efforts to tackle immigration reform on a piecemeal basis are “short-sighted and self-defeating.”
Rubio has outlined plans for legislation that would contain several bills rather than a comprehensive package.
“Some policy makers are calling for piecemeal changes, such as issuing visas for high-skilled workers and investors, or conferring legal status on immigrants who were illegally brought to the country as children,” warned Bush. “Congress should avoid such quick fixes and commit itself instead to comprehensive immigration reform.”
Rubio, speaking on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta van Susteren” last week, asserted that any broad reform package had to include a sequence of steps including the establishment of a guest worker program.
“If you’ve committed any serious crime, you’re going to be deported,” he said. “Everybody else, what I think should happen is they should . . . be given the opportunity to qualify for temporary, nonpermanent status in — essence, a work permit — if they pay back taxes, they pay a penalty, they have a background check that they can clear, etc. And they would have to be in that probationary period for a reasonable but significant period of time.”
Bush did not mention Rubio by name but the two allies clearly could become rivals if Bush decides to run. Rubio visited Iowa shortly after Election Day, fueling speculation about his plans.
Both have also made their cases for education reform to the public. Bush has recently worked to advance new legislation and raised millions of dollars for his Foundation for Excellence in Education Reform, according to The Hill
In a speech about education to the Chamber of Commerce last week, Rubio called for improving workers’ skills, saying that a “fundamental obstacle to economic progress is the skills gap that exists in our nation. The fact of the matter is that millions of our people do not have the skills that they need for the 21st century.”
Still, some pundits say Rubio would not run against Bush in the presidential primary. “Marco Rubio’s political godfather is Jeb Bush. I don’t see any way they run against each other for any office,” Don Gaetz, president of the Florida Senate told The Hill.
Early numbers suggest that in the event of a challenge, Bush would prevail. A November survey by Public Policy Polling found that Bush, 59, earned the support of 28 perecent of the 624 Florida Republicans who participated, while Rubio, 41, received 22 percent. The poll was taken before the 2012 election.
It also found that both are eminently likeable. Rubio was viewed favorably by 88 percent of Florida Republicans, while Bush had an 85 percent favorable rating.
Earlier this month, The Tampa Bay Times conducted a Florida Insider Poll to survey more than 100 people most active in the state’s political scene, including campaign aides, fundraisers, and lobbyists.
It found 62 percent expect Bush will run in 2016, while 55 percent doubt Rubio will put his hat in the ring. Asked who would be the stronger candidate, a whopping 81 percent said Bush.
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