Politics Now

Bush and Rubio prod each other at New Hampshire Republican summit

Jeb Bush: The 'big desk' of the presidency is different than other jobs (like Marco Rubio's)

Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush are both Floridians eyeing the White House, sharing a base of support and close political relationship. But as they both spoke Friday to hundreds of New Hampshire Republicans, their familiarity bred a bit of disdain.

Bush, responding to a question about his record, critiqued President Obama’s resume -- and, more broadly, the depth of experience a politician should have before assuming the presidency.

“I think one of the differences for the presidency than other positions is that someone sitting behind that big desk has to make decisions. You can’t just be an empty slate,” said Bush, who is expected to run for president but has not yet formally announced his candidacy. He added that Obama was in the U.S. Senate for two years before announcing his presidential bid, and previously in a state legislature, “with very little record of accomplishment.”

“So I hope I’ll be able to share the belief that accomplishment matters and leadership matters,” Bush told state Republicans gathered in a hotel ballroom. “Who sits behind the big desk as it relates to the presidency is different than perhaps the United States Senate or another job.”

Rubio, who announced his presidential bid on Monday, has been in the Senate for a little over four years and was previously a state legislator.

When it was his turn to speak, he pointedly said that the nation needed to look to a new generation for leadership. Namely, the 43-year–old Rubio’s generation, and not the 62-year-old Bush’s.

“We have too many leaders trapped in the past, people who think it’s still the 20th century, people who still think the ideas from yesterday will propel us into tomorrow,” Rubio said. “They never have, and they never will.”

Rubio also offered a sharp rebuke of Common Core, a set of national education standards championed by Bush. The former governor has argued that the standards are voluntary, but Rubio said they would inevitably lead to federal intervention in schools, an anathema among conservatives.

The two Floridians have had to navigate the awkwardness of their simultaneous runs for the presidency, which has generated no small amount of angst among the donors and political activists who like both of them.

Earlier in the day, Bush was asked whether he felt betrayed by the younger man’s decision to seek the White House.

“It is what it is," Bush told reporters after a Friday morning speech at a college in Manchester. "… If I am a candidate, this is a long journey. And one of my objectives would be to maintain the friendships I have with the people that may be aspiring to the same thing. I think it's possible."

Rubio, asked about Bush’s record on Friday, demurred.

“Jeb, if he announces for president, he’s going to be a very strong candidate,” Rubio said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I imagine he’ll put forth a policy agenda that outlines his position on various issues and then we can make that judgment.”

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