Once mentor and mentee, Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio will likely go head-to-head in the Republican primary. Since the two met in 1996, Rubio has been turning to Bush for advice, and Bush has been cheering him on with support and advice every step of the way. But now, the two are in a place where they can’t turn to each other or necessarily support each other. That conundrum is leading to some rocky friendship territory between Bush and Rubio.
According to a report from The Miami Herald, that tension became clear this weekend in New Hampshire, as Republican candidates held meet-and-greets and visited donors and activists. When reporters asked them about their friendship, the two maintained cordiality with Bush saying, “It is what it is,” and Rubio saying that the two will “remain friends through the process” on CBS' Face The Nation this Sunday.
But the Herald contends that not everything was as peachy between the two men as they made it out to be. Both men have made comments that could easily be interpreted as attacks on the other. For instance, Rubio opened his campaign by defying critics who said that he was to young to run for the position, at age 43. He shrugged off calls for him to “wait his turn” and instead dismissed candidates of “yesterday.” Bush, on the other hand, made the bold move of underlying Obama’s lack of experience and young age when he took office, hinting that maybe that wasn’t a choice to be repeated.
While both are highlighting their major difference — their age — what really might cause some strain in the primary is their striking number of similarities. Back in February, The New York Times posed the question of if, in an already crowded Republican primary field, there was room enough for two Florida politicians to run. The two men live in the same city — about three miles apart from one another. They run within the same political network. The two even have deep ties to Miami’s Hispanic cultural life.
Moreover, the similarities also extend beyond just geographical similarities. The Herald notes that when the two men were speaking in New Hampshire over the weekend, they both talked on raising the retirement age to receive Social Security benefits, granting lawful status to the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, and the importance of reforming the current higher education system.
But, as Rubio has pointed out:
I’m not running against Jeb Bush if I run for president. We have our own message and our own network of supporters.
According to the Times though, there are already supporters who are split between which of the two Florida men to support. Even if Rubio says they aren’t running against each other, they certainly are — and more so than other Republican candidates. After all, there is only room for one Floridian in the general election.
We’ll see if they’re still friends come 2016.
Images: Getty Images (2)