The recently revamped New Republic takes a look at the Shakespearean tragedy that may be developing between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. An excerpt:
The two men are not as close today as they were in their Tallahassee days. Rubio no longer relies on former Bush staffers to fill out his team. With the exception of a few key players, there isn’t significant overlap between the two camps. And reporters have been busy looking for any sign of tension between them. In December, they seized on a comment from Bush’s youngest son, Jeb Jr., who claimed that Rubio had to “actually execute and get something done rather than just talking.” (In an e-mail, Jeb Jr., who is considering his own run for office in Florida, denied any tension with Rubio.)
The press had more meaningful friction to report in early March, as Bush hit the media circuit to promote his new book on immigration reform, co-authored with conservative legal activist Clint Bolick. The book argues against a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—a stance that angered reform advocates, who previously viewed Bush as an ally. And that complicates matters politically for Rubio, who has emerged as the public face of a bipartisan Senate gang working to enact immigration reform—an effort, Republicans will admit, undertaken in part to ensure that they remain competitive in future campaigns. Bush sought to quell the controversy, maintaining he was still open to a path under the right circumstances, and both he and Rubio downplayed any daylight between them.
The conversation will surely continue through mid-March, though, when Bush and Rubio are both slated to speak at CPAC, the annual summit in Washington that is as good an index as any of the state of Republican soul-searching. Rubio heads into the spring slightly ahead on points. Nationally, he is the favored contender for the 2016 Republican nomination; he’s also the choice of Florida Republican primary voters, even if Bush did handily beat Rubio in a poll of more than 100 Florida insiders conducted by the Tampa Bay Times in December. Rubio has a national coalition of support—activists, social conservatives, Tea Partiers, and blogger-types—that is distinct from Bush’s older, more established base.
Some also question whether Bush has the inclination to thrust himself back into public life. His recent publicity tour notwithstanding, Bush has been choosing his public appearances carefully, enjoying stretches of privacy in the interim. Bush, held up by his supporters as the man who could restore sanity to his party, could be a tougher sell to the modern GOP. His record on social issues has not stirred conservatives. His passion for education policy is not one the Tea Party shares. And he would have to overcome the hostility to the Bush name engendered by his brother’s two terms in the White House. It is not difficult to imagine that Republican primary voters would, like Democrats five years ago, prefer a newcomer with an exciting story to another dynasty hire.
Still, few people in Florida can imagine Rubio running if Bush decided to get into the race. Though he has often been written about as an overnight Tea Party sensation, that narrative belies the methodic arc of Rubio’s career, points out Washington Postreporter Manuel Roig-Franzia in his book, The Rise of Marco Rubio. Duty, loyalty, and honor are considered first principles in his circles. “I have always seen him as a very respectful person,” said Rebeca Sosa, a former West Miami mayor who was tending her garden the day the young Rubio came to ask for her support in his first campaign. “I have no question in my mind that, if one day he needs to sit down with a friend and discuss issues of importance for the nation, … he and Jeb will do it.” Steven Geller, who served as the Democratic minority leader in the state Senate, told me, “I regard Marco as a man of honor, and I don’t think he’d do that to Jeb.”