The prospect of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio running for president in 2016 raises the possibility that the one-time protégé of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush could become his rival.
In a preview of what could be to come, Rubio appears to be redefining the nature of their relationship, telling The Washington Post
in an interview, "I never worked for him."
"I wouldn't diminish the relationship or exaggerate it," Rubio told the Post. "It wasn't that he sat me down and gave me a lecture about it; you learn from being exposed to people."
As recently as 2012, Rubio said in his memoir that Bush was "the man I most admired in Florida politics," adding that if Bush had decided to run for the Senate in 2010, "no one would challenge him in the primary — certainly not me."
But if the two end up running in the 2016 GOP primary, it would set-up a "remarkable clash between two men who have not just been political allies for the last 20 years, but who also grew out of the same city, the same political network — even the same Hispanic cultural life of Miami," the Post noted.
And with the two both representing the Republican establishment, they would be competing for the same set of donors, staffers, and voters, the Post said.
The newspaper added that a competition between the two would also expose their weaknesses.
"Rubio, 43, risks appearing inexperienced standing next to the 62-year-old former two-term governor. Meanwhile, Bush, brother and son to former presidents, could look like the stale, old guard of the GOP in contrast to the freshness of a new generation represented by Rubio," the Post wrote.
According to one Florida insider, Brian Ballard, the relationship between the two men has been overplayed in the media. He said Rubio "was in the role of – not necessarily a protégé, but someone who really respected Jeb's political skill and his intellect and his policy wonkiness," the Post reported.
Ballard said the relationship was "outstanding," but added, "it's just that sometimes you compete with your friends."
According to the Post, the strain between the two camps if both were in the race for the presidency is more likely being felt among supporters rather than the politicians themselves.
"I think it would be less awkward for Jeb and Marco than for a lot of us around them," Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist from Florida, told the Post.
The Bush-Rubio relationship dates back to 1996 when Rubio was working on Bob Dole's presidential campaign. Two years later, Bush donated $50 to Rubio to support his run for the West Miami City Commission, and called him on election night to congratulation him. And Bush was present at other pivotal times for Rubio's career, lending a supportive word in public ceremonies honoring Rubio.
In recent days as he considers the possibility of a 2016 bid, the Post said, Rubio has attempted to signal his intention to define his identity as independent of Bush.
"You can certainly see that Marco was plotting his own philosophical course," Rick Wilson, a Florida Republican strategist, told the Post.
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