Story highlights

Marco Rubio finished in third place for the Iowa caucuses a stronger than expected finish going into New Hampshire

Rubio's closest opponents are sharpening their attacks on the Florida senator

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Rubio to "man up" and said he was a "boy in the bubble"

Bedford, New Hampshire CNN  — 

Chris Christie attacked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday as an unprepared candidate with few skills outside of listening to his advisers, repeatedly calling him “the boy in the bubble” today in New Hampshire.

Christie, talking to reporters at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters, hinted at what was coming, saying initially that Rubio was in for “an interesting week.” Then, after the last question was asked, he went off.

“It’s time for him to man up and step up and stop letting all of his handlers write his speeches and handle him, because that’s what they do, that’s what you have to do for somebody has never done anything in their life,” Christie said as part of an extended attack that did everything but question Rubio’s manhood.

As much of the GOP field descends on New Hampshire – which votes a week from Tuesday – so too do the establishment candidates descend on the Florida senator, whom they battle with, in order to be the alternative to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

If his comments Tuesday are any indication, going after Rubio is going to be a key component of that stand, with Christie already targeting the next debate for a face-to-face battle.

“Let’s get the boy in the bubble out of the bubble and let’s see him play for the next week in New Hampshire. I’m ready to play. I hope he is because I’ll be ready to see him on stage on Saturday night,” Christie said.

Tuesday marked a new chapter and a new tone in the increasingly intense war of words between Christie and Rubio.

For weeks Christie has been leveling attacks at Rubio in his town halls around New Hampshire and Iowa. Those, primarily focused on deriding Rubio as an inexperienced first term senator, included calling Rubio “Barack Obama with a Republican pedigree” in an interview with CNN on Saturday.

The New Jersey governor’s criticism of Rubio as a candidate – from his campaigning skills to his grasp of the issues – went personal, telling Rubio to “man up,” in an attack that underscored what the Florida senator is facing after blowing past expectations in Iowa on Monday night.

“Maybe he’ll answer more than two or three questions in a town hall meeting,” Christie said. “And do more than 40 minutes on a little stage you know telling everybody his canned speech that he’s memorized. This isn’t an a student council election.”

Rubio and his team are pressing to cut the knees out from Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who have long pointed to New Hampshire as their moment to break out.

Rubio said Tuesday it was time for the party to coalesce behind him in the fight against Trump and Cruz.

“I think people realize on the Republican side that we cannot afford, this country cannot afford, to lose this election and that I give the party the best chance not just to unify the conservative movement but to grow it,” Rubio said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Christie’s targeting of Rubio also shed light on what to expect from a candidate who openly acknowledged that New Hampshire is where he’ll have to make his “last stand.”

In New Hampshire today, in addition to Rubio and Christie, candidates including Bush, Kasich, Trump and Cruz are all campaigning. Former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are both off Tuesday.