Jeb Bush appeared on the set of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday, where he questioned Marco Rubio’s leadership skills.
“I think I have the leadership skills to fix things, and that’s my strength, that’s what I talk about, ” he told Bloomberg News’ John Heilemann. “Marco was a member of the House of Representatives when I was governor and he followed my lead, and I’m proud of that-“
“But you do not think he has the leadership skills to fix things?” Heilemann countered.
“No,” Bush replied. “Barack Obama didn’t end up having ’em, and he won an election on the belief that people had that he could, and he didn’t even try.”
It’s one of of the most direct attacks that Bush has made against his Miami area neighbor, who has superseded him (though modestly) in most major polls that have been released since the second Republican presidential debate took place last month at the Reagan Library.
The former Florida governor rebuked reports that some of his financial donors are growing uneasy about his lack of movement in the polls. “No donor’s called me up. And I’m a kind, gentle person,” he joked. He insisted that the reason he’s struggling in most surveys nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire was because he just began airing television ads two weeks ago.
When asked later in the interview to explain why his candidacy hasn’t broken through yet, Bush again repeated that his story as leading Florida for eight years isn’t that well known among Republican voters yet.
“My story is one of a disrupter,” he explained to host Joe Scarborough. “I can bring that same leadership skill to disrupt the old order in Washington, and it desperately needs it. I mean, that place needs…clean out the crud. It’s not working, and it’s a danger to our democracy that you can’t pass a budget, that you can’t deal with these big issues.”
Bush blasted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his recent comment that the Benghazi investigations have been about bringing down Hillary Clinton’s popularity. “I don’t quite understand why he said that. That’s the problem with Washington right now. They’re grasping to find something to say that they’ve done something positive. First of all, that’s not positive, and secondly, that’s not the intent.”
Bush also said that the U.S. should impose sanctions on Russia for their recent air strikes in Syria.
“This is outrageous. He’s attacking the Syrian Free Army,” Bush said about reports that Russia is dropping bombs on Syrian opposition groups — but not against ISIS. “We’re in a position right now where, if we don’t show strength, this will create problems not just in Syria, but the rest of the world.” Bush said that the Obama administration should confer with its European allies about possibly imposing sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s government in response.
Bush dismissed Donald Trump’s recently announced tax plans, saying that it will put far too much stress on the federal deficit. “It’s not a serious plan, in other words.” He went on to say it was “typical of Mr. Trump,” he said, placing the proposal along with Trump’s recent statements that he doesn’t want to accept any Syrian refugees and that he would try to deport all 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “The cost of that, the lack of civil liberties, the disruptive nature of that is just not realistic, and ultimately people are going to begin to see these things.”
Bush ended the interview by countering the narrative that he’s not having fun on the campaign trail. “I’m having a blast doing it, and I believe I’m going to win the nomination.”