The verbal sparring between GOP presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush highlighted an overall contentious debate Wednesday, when the gloves came off and the punches flew against fellow candidates, Hillary Clinton and even the CNBC moderators.
In a moment that was a long time coming, the former Florida governor Bush finally realized that his one-time friend and protégée Rubio has become an existential threat to his way to the Oval Office – and he got the perfect chance to break out their rivalry into the open when the moderators questioned Rubio about his spotty voting record.
Everyone saw that coming. After all, Rubio is under fire for not attending important Senate votes due to his campaign. However, what most probably did not expect was the dramatic exchange between him and Bush – the man who nurtured his political career.
“I mean literally, the Senate, what is it, like a French workweek?” Bush, who previously said he would not attack other candidates during his campaign, scoffed. “You get like three days where you have to show up? You can campaign or just resign and let someone else take the job.”
Rubio, who has surpassed Bush in some polls and looked more than ready for this attack, turned the tables on his competitor by suggesting he was acting out of desperation.
“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,” he said.
However, despite stinging the former governor with a harsh rebuttal, Rubio said that he would continue to have respect for his former mentor.
“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 concluded. “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 am running for president.”
Amid the floundering poll numbers, questions about him dropping out of the presidential race before the voting even begins, and the downsizing in his campaign, Bush sorely needed to stand out during Wednesday night's event.
Sadly for him, his attempts appears to have backfired.
It looks like CNBC moderators weren’t the only losers of the GOP debate.
Watch their heated exchange in the video above.