Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio took swipes at current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump Saturday, questioning Trump’s conservatism and blaming the media for his political successes.
In a question and answer session with CNN’s Dana Bash, following Rubio’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the Florida senator said that “the American dream isn’t about how much money you make or about how many buildings have your name on it.” It was Rubio’s first overt reference to Trump during the exchange with Bash, but not the last.
Bash then pivoted to the fact that Trump decided, last minute, to drop out of a scheduled CPAC appearance.
“This is the American Conservative Union — it is usually reserved for conservatives,” Rubio said. “Look, either the ideas behind conservatism matter, or they do not. I believe they do. It is not ‘Vote for me because I’m angry and more over-the-top’ — I get that anger and frustration, I really do.”
Rubio then went on to explain that a large number of young conservative elected officials exist in this country because they grew up under Ronald Reagan, adding that “Reagan looked and acted nothing like Donald Trump.”
“You are stepping up your rhetoric big time against Donald Trump,” Bash continued. “You’re calling him a con artist and a fraud. If you believe those things, why did you wait until February 2016 to say so?”
Rubio went on to explain that he never imagined that a candidate who is “a supporter of Planned Parenthood, who does not stand with Israel” would be the Republican frontrunner.
When asked why he thinks Trump has been leading the polls and dominating the primaries thus far, Rubio blamed the media.
“I’ve now been sitting here for five minutes, and two of the three questions have been about Donald Trump. That’s the reason why, because he’s getting all this attention,” Rubio said.
Rubio also said that he doesn’t want to have to constantly explain to his kids that they should not speak like or act like the president, mocking both a potential Trump presidency and taking a swipe at Bill Clinton.
“I don’t want us to have a president that would constantly have to be explained to our kids, ‘Look, I know that is what the president did, but you shouldn’t do that. I don’t want that,” he said, adding that “we actually had a president like that not long ago, it was really bad.”
Rubio also defended his recent attacks at Trump, including his comment about Trump’s hands at the most recent Republican debate, by telling Bash that “where I grew up, if someone keeps punching someone in the face, eventually someone is going to have to stand up and punch them back.”
The exchange followed Rubio’s speech on the CPAC stage, which included a single vague reference to Trump, in which he warned about the conservative movement being “hijacked by someone who is not a conservative.”
Rubio has been on the offensive lately, ramping up his attacks of Trump in campaign speeches and debates. In Thursday night’s debate, Rubio’s attacked Trump’s business failures, his poor track record of conservative values, and his lack of experience, especially in the area of foreign affairs.
Rubio, along with Trump’s other rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich, pledged to support Trump at the end of Thursday night’s debate should he win the nomination.
On March 15, Florida Republican voters will cast their vote in the state’s primary, a contest that Rubio told Bash at CPAC he is confident he will win. Polls, however, show Rubio trailing Trump in the state by as much as 20 points.