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Marco Rubio on Jeb Bush: 'I still have tremendous admiration' for him

Marco Rubio says that an exchange between himself and Jeb Bush during Wednesday night's Republican debate was not personal, and that he still has "tremendous admiration" for the former Florida governor.
/ Source: TODAY

In one of the signature moments of Wednesday night's Republican debate, Marco Rubio fired back at Jeb Bush in an exchange that many pundits are calling a decisive win for the Senator over his mentor, and one that Rubio says was not personal.

"I still have tremendous admiration for him both as a person and what he did as governor of Florida and I'm not going to talk bad about Gov. Bush,'' Rubio told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday. "My campaign is not about him. I'm not running against him or against anyone else."

During Wednesday's debate, Bush called for Rubio to resign from the Senate to focus on his campaign because he's been missing numerous votes in Washington. Rubio responded by saying the only reason Bush brought his Senate votes up is because "we're running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."

Rubio maintained Thursday morning that despite the tense moment between the Florida rivals, his focus is on "running for president."

"What I'm going to continue to do and what I hope more candidates will do is we're going to talk about who we are and what we would do and let everybody do that, and then the voters are going to decide," he said.

Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator running for the nomination in 2016, but has no plans of following Bush's suggestion and stepping down.

"For me it's an incredible honor to serve in the United States Senate and to serve the people of Florida,'' Rubio said. "We serve real people every day. I enjoy that very much, and we enjoy doing that service, and we're going to continue to do it."

Rubio's communications director, Alex Conant, told reporters after the debate that many potential Bush donors were now contacting Rubio's campaign to switch allegiances.

"We're always trying to add new supporters,'' Rubio said. "It cost money to run these races. I always say this respectfully: If the media stops charging us for advertising, we'll stop raising as much money. It's expensive to communicate with the American voters and to get our message out."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.