Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush spar over immigration attack ads

Story highlights

  • Rubio releases ad denouncing Jeb Bush super PAC for its spots criticizing his immigration record
  • Bush says Rubio 'can't play role of the victim'

North Charleston, South Carolina (CNN)As the ad wars are escalating between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, so is their rhetoric -- particularly on the issue of immigration.

Rubio released an ad Friday calling the former Florida governor "desperate" because Bush's super PAC is spending millions on negative ads targeting the senator and Bush's former protégé.
"Don't fall for it," Rubio says in ad, looking directly into the camera.
    Bush, at a press conference to receive the endorsement of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, responded to the spot, telling reporters that he finds the ads in this campaign "pretty tame" and argued that he can take the heat -- and more important, that Rubio should be able to as well.
    "I'm a big boy ... if you are a candidate, you can't play role of the victim," Bush said. "So I'm not going to do it. And he shouldn't do it either."
    Earlier this week, the pro-Bush super PAC, Right to Rise USA, released an ad depicting Rubio as a weather vane the bends with the wind, citing his abandonment of the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration bill three years ago that Rubio helped create.
    Bush himself has previously changed his position on immigration. He once favored a pathway to citizenship, but altered his view to favor only legal status when he released a new book on immigration in 2013. But Bush argues that he's the only candidate that hasn't changed his view on the issue in the past few years.
    At the press conference, Bush stressed "there's no coordination" between him and the super PAC but did not denounce the ad against Rubio on immigration.
    In fact, Bush stood by the attack line. Bush said Rubio had personally lobbied him to support the 2013 bill, which included a pathway to citizenship even though Bush was on the record at the time as being only for a pathway to legal status.
    "He asked me to support that bill and I said, 'yeah of course, this is what senators are supposed to do, forge consensus' ... and I supported that even though my ideas were different," he said.
    "Marco cut and run, plain and simple, for whatever reason -- may be legitimate reasons but he cut and run," he added, referring to Rubio deciding to oppose the bill in the end. "He asked for my support on a bill and he cut and run on his colleagues."