Marco Rubio welcomed Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race Monday – and he truly seemed to mean it.
"In politics, people throw around the word 'friend' so much it often has little real meaning,” Senator Rubio said Monday in a statement. “This is not one of those times. When I call Jeb Bush my friend, I mean he is someone I like, care for, and respect. He and I have worked closely together for many years, on issues big and small. He is a passionate advocate for what he believes, and I welcome him to the race."
This statement is remarkable. First, Rubio and Mr. Bush – who is set to officially enter the race Monday – aren’t merely competitors for the Republican nomination. They are both top-tier candidates, and both of them have the potential to go all the way to the White House. They are both sons of Florida – for Bush, beginning in early adulthood, for Rubio, from birth. Both have served the state in major roles – Bush as a two-term governor, Rubio as speaker of the state House and then as senator.
Bush is a generation older than Rubio and was his political mentor. Perhaps more than most Republicans, Bush has long recognized the importance of the nation’s fast-growing Latino population. Barely out of college, he married his Mexican girlfriend, Columba, and they have three bicultural children. Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants. Both men speak fluent Spanish.
Now Bush and Rubio are competing against each other for the highest office in the land. And at a time when the big guns are loading up financially – in both parties – for a campaign that has the potential to be the most ugly and negative in modern history, Rubio is laying down a marker. With a smile on his face, he is running a future-oriented, “hope and change” kind of campaign, Republican mockery of President Obama’s successful slogan notwithstanding.
Bush has said he would run for president “joyfully.” That, too, suggests an attempt to move beyond the nastiness and vitriol that have marked presidential campaigns in recent years and turned off voters.
Coming from another candidate, Rubio’s message might trigger eye-rolling and cynicism from the political world. But in this case, maybe it won't. Because Rubio just might mean it.