Video: Did Jeb Bush cold-shoulder Rubio during a break in the debate?

No way, said Rubio to ABC News this morning, but watch the clip. He approaches Jeb, Jeb shakes his head “no,” and Rubio instantly turns on a dime and heads back towards Trump. What could have happened between them to cause that particular reaction apart from Rubio saying something like, “Can I say hi?”


Maybe he asked Jeb, “You think this performance is helping you tonight?” *Shakes head*

Here’s what Rubio told ABC:

When asked in an interview on “Good Morning America” about the possible snub, Rubio said, “It looked that way, but that’s not what happened. We were fine.”

As the lights dimmed during a commercial break at the Fox Business-Wall Street Journal Republican debate, Rubio approached the former governor as Bush appeared to shake his head at him. Rubio instead turned and spoke to front-runner Donald Trump.

Rubio said this morning that he doesn’t take anything personally while running for president.

“I know it makes for an interesting Vine video, but it really wasn’t anything of meaning,” he said, smiling.

There may be more significance to that than just dumb post-debate soap-opera detritus. It could be that the budding Bush/Rubio feud is de-escalating. The most striking thing about last night’s debate was that there was no confrontation between the two despite that splashy NYT story on Monday about Jeb’s Super PAC preparing to go nuclear on Rubio. “Seething with anger and alarmed over Mr. Rubio’s rise,” the Times breathlessly reported, “aides to Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, and his allies are privately threatening a wave of scathing attacks on his former protégé in the coming weeks…” Rubio took a bunch of shots from other candidates last night too — explicitly from Rand Paul on foreign policy and his tax plan, implicitly from Ted Cruz on immigration when Cruz noted how many other candidates onstage support amnesty. But nothing from Jeb. How come?


One theory I read after the NYT story was that it was a sort of trial balloon from Bush’s Super PAC to see how Jeb himself might react. Because the Super PAC can’t communicate directly with the candidate, sometimes they leak strategy to newspapers knowing that the candidate will receive the message that way. Maybe that was Mike Murphy, the head of the PAC, encouraging Jeb to go after Rubio at the debate — to no avail, as it turned out, either because there was no obvious opportunity in the questions last night or because Jeb decided that beating up on Rubio isn’t the path back to the top tier after all. (Who could blame him after getting stomped from all sides for his lame attack in the last debate?) In that case, Rubio would have every reason to protect Jeb when asked about the apparent cold-shoulder last night. Why restart a fight that’s just ended by embarrassing Bush for being grumpy?

This is interesting too:

As Republican primary voters tune in Tuesday evening to the fourth debate for the shrinking-yet-still-overcrowded GOP presidential field, a new television ad created by the distinctively-named “Baby Got PAC” will debut, seeking to unite conservatives in support of Rubio as the strongest candidate to take on Hillary Clinton…

A source close to the PAC shared with me an entirely different ad that was originally supposed to air tonight. The decision to switch ads had apparently come within the past twenty-four hours. The string of victories Rubio has had from following this strategy was evident to the Baby Got PAC organizers, who noted that each attempted attack by Bush seemed to leave the former governor in a weaker position than before…

Another well-connected Washington, D.C., Republican media operative not connected to the PAC confirmed some additional details. This source told me that a second ad, titled “Message to the Establishment,” had in fact been created and was cleared by the Fox Business Channel. A separate source at the network confirmed that this ad “focused on Jeb Bush and why he can’t win this race.”


A new PAC supporting Rubio was all set to punch Bush in the face with an attack ad — and then stood down at the last minute, more evidence of de-escalation. Which, when you think about it, makes sense for both sides. Attacking Rubio is a bad look for Jeb for reasons I explained last night, and now that Trump and (soon) Cruz will be coming after him on immigration, there’s really no need for Bush to pile on. The more he antagonizes center-right Rubio fans by attacking, the less likely he is to inherit them when and if Rubio fades. Arguably he’s better off lying low, rebuilding his own image, and focusing on the inexperience of the top-tier candidates as a group without naming Rubio specifically. Meanwhile, Rubio doesn’t want to hit Bush until it’s clearly necessary lest he forfeit the sympathy he’s gotten from being the target of the spoiled rich kid in the race who thought he was entitled to the nomination by dint of his family history. Could be that some sort of informal truce has been reached, to be canceled later in the unlikely event that Bush becomes a force in the race again and has a shot at elbowing past Rubio in the polls.

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