There is always some level of political drama in the presidential primaries, but the level of emotion in previous years doesn't even come close to the tensions within the Republican party for the 2016 election. In fact, next year's primaries might even be called the Year of the Frenemy, now that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — once super close — are running against each other. Though they've been tight in the past, it remains unclear exactly what Bush and Rubio's relationship is and was like. Were they BFFs? Was it a male bonding relationship with father and son roles? Was Bush the mentor and Rubio the protégé, as so many news articles suggest? Perhaps an even more important question is what their relationship will look like going into the election. Will they remain close, or will their binds be severed in a dramatic public breakup, perhaps during a live, nationally televised debate? There are so many questions and so little time to speculate.
Rubio has previously said he would never run against Bush for a position — when he was considering running for the Senate in 2010, he stated publicly that he wouldn't even try for the job if Bush wanted it for himself. This time around, though, he's not deferring to Bush. But Rubio still doesn't see running against Bush as, well, running against Bush:
He’ll be a very significant candidate. But I don’t, I wouldn’t view it as me running against Jeb Bush. I was considering, I would consider running whether he was in the race or not in the race. And so me, it really has nothing to do with him. It has to do about where I feel like I can best serve America at this time in America’s history and at this time in my life and my career.
If you're still following, I believe Rubio just said his race for the 2016 Republican nomination has nothing to do with Bush. But if you've read other, perhaps more streamlined information about the election, you might find this as hard to believe as I do. For one, Rubio and Bush are both going to be campaigning for the Hispanic vote. This is a "crucial voting bloc" if the Republicans are going to win the election, so there's no way these two candidates aren't anticipating each other's every move to corner that Latino market.
Cuban Americans are an especially contentious topic with the GOP right now, as Rubio and Bush prepare to duke it out to see who is more relatable with Cuban voters. Rubio might have an advantage at this particular moment in time because the U.S. just formally shook hands with Cuba and agreed to tolerate each other. At any other time in American history, Rubio might not even have a shot because of Cuban-American relations, but now his Cuban heritage is more relevant than ever.
While Bush isn't actually Hispanic, though he apparently registered to vote under that label, he does have one particular element of sway with the Latino population: His wife is from Mexico. Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican party, told CNN:
Many of the older Cubans were with Jeb early on but for many of those exiles, Marco is the fulfillment of the American dream. They will be torn between Jeb, who they adore, and Marco, who is almost like their grandchild.
Speaking of grandchildren, the father-son element of Bush and Rubio's relationship just grows more perplexing as primary campaign season begins. Apparently, the two are still close enough to sit next to each other on those tiny airplane seats, which suggests their relationship runs deeper than just two politically conservative guys who run in similar circles. In other words, they're not just good friends — there is a closer connection, something that resembles an almost familial relationship. Bush helped Rubio get elected Florida House speaker. And while they were both in the Florida Capitol, Rubio backed every legislative initiative Bush put forward. In 2010, Bush even said, "Marco Rubio makes me cry for joy."
But in his enthusiasm to get ahead and be seen as something other than just a Bush mini-me, Rubio wants to make sure people don't make too much out of their relationship. "I wouldn’t diminish the relationship or exaggerate it," he said in February. As far as diminishing the relationship goes, it seems that's up to Rubio now as he prepares to take on his closest political ally in the often dog-eat-dog world of political primaries.
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