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Bush and Rubio Feud Overshadows Iowa GOP Event

Jeb Bush Pushes Back on Leaked Campaign Memo Targeting Rubio 2:53

The standout moment of Wednesday night’s debate — Marco Rubio counter-punching Jeb Bush on his Senate absences — followed the presidential hopefuls to Iowa on Saturday at the last official GOP cattle call before the caucuses.

It was an exchange that brought the long-simmering feud between the longtime allies-turned-opponents into the forefront.

Bush’s efforts to keep the pressure on Rubio continued into Saturday at the Iowa Republican Party’s Growth and Opportunity Party, when he again referenced Rubio’s attendance during his address.

"If you're elected to serve, you should do what Chuck Grassley does: You should show up to vote," Bush said in a reference to Iowa's senior senator.

But the momentum Rubio won from his performance Wednesday night extended into Iowa, and he received perhaps the best reception of the day at the event. He received huge rounds of applause during his speech, and was thronged by supporters as he tried to leave the venue.

Rubio's welcome capped a two-day swing through the state that saw him pack a happy-hour event on Friday before getting the warmest reception that night at a Northwestern Iowa GOP event, and then fielding questions at a town hall on Saturday morning.

All throughout, he ignored Bush’s attacks, and indeed downplayed the conflict in an interview with NBC News.

"I’m running for president, I’m not running against any of these guys," he said, when asked whether he was worried the back-and-forth would damage his relationship with Bush.

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But Bush was well-received at the Saturday event as well, after giving a fiery and upbeat speech that suggested he had taken to heart criticism that he’s been low-energy on the trail.

"Rather than just be pessimistic and depressed at what goes on, what we need to do is unite — not just conservatives, but all of us — around the belief that we can fix these things," he told the crowd, to cheers.

His performance won plaudits from supporters, who said they were hopeful it was a signal he was moving past what Chris McLinden, an Iowa precinct captain for Bush, acknowledged was a “rough week”

"I think he performed very well up here, He knows his back’s against the wall," he said. "He had a rough week, but I was really really darn impressed with him today."

McLindner did say, however, that "absolutely" the bad week made his job looking to organize the state for Bush harder.

"I'm not going to kid anybody. It does make it hard to get precinct captains on board and get people to come out there," he said.

While the feud between the two Floridians was the day’s most prominent, the field was largely able to unite behind a common enemy: CNBC, NBC News’ sister network, who has become a symbol for the GOP’s frustration with the media after hosting a debate that was widely panned by conservatives.

Rubio, throughout the weekend, joked about the debate, telling one crowd that though he’s 45, after another debate like last week’s he’ll "feel 55."

Sen. Ted Cruz joked on Saturday that it was "fitting that the debate occurred the week of Halloween because the moderators were doing everything they could to ask every candidate, alright explain to me: Are you more of a ghoul or a goblin?"

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee called the debate a “train wreck,” and noted that CNBC achieved something he thought impossible: Bringing “all the candidates together in a complete agreement that we won’t do any more debates on NBC if they’re going to run them like that.”

Carly Fiorina, during conversations with reporters on Friday, decried the debate moderation as a “flagrant example of media bias.”

Even outside of Iowa, GOP contenders continued to take aim at CNBC. During his rally in Norfolk, Va., Donald Trump dismissed moderator John Harwood as a “dope” and a “fool.”

One candidate in Iowa, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, downplayed the debate issue in an interview with NBC News.

"I’m not one of these guys that’s going to sit around and complain about this, okay,” he said. "If you can’t take it, on the stage ... then how are you going to take running against Hillary Clinton, how are you going to take negotiating for America around the world?"

Though Christie did joke during his address that “all they did was ask us about fantasy football.”