The long-simmering rivalry between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio has finally spilled out into the open.
For months now, the Florida Republicans have battled behind the scenes. The two presidential campaigns have pushed opposition research, battled for activists and donors, and taken frequent implied swipes at one another.
But with Rubio besting Bush in the last three national polls, Bush this week pulled back the curtain. Twice in two days, the former governor publicly sought to draw a distinction between him and the first-term senator, whose political star rose under Bush’s governorship.
Rubio has so far held his fire.
Supporters for Bush and Rubio seemed relieved that the tension has finally boiled over. Members of each camp believe they’re well-positioned to meet the other head-on.
Rubio appears to have the momentum, however. He has surpassed Bush in the polls in the weeks since the last Republican debate and looks more like the formidable challenger many believed he’d be all along.
“It looks like Bush has recognized that Rubio is the biggest threat to his campaign in terms of solidifying the establishment vote, so he’s trying to big-foot Marco,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who is unaffiliated. “It’s not vicious, it’s just a little jab.”