WASHINGTON — Marco Rubio praised the “talented” Chris Christie Wednesday, but said the New Jersey governor’s debate attack on him did little to help his own chances.
Christie announced Wednesday he was ending his White House bid, following a dismal performance Tuesday in New Hampshire. The governor also appears to have knocked Rubio from the slot of establishment favorite, after his withering criticism of the senator during Saturday night’s Republican debate.
Rubio told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he didn’t take the attack personally. “I like Chris Christie very much, I respect him and I don’t agree with him on some policy issues, but that’s normal.”
Christie hit Rubio throughout the run-up to New Hampshire, calling him the “boy in the bubble,” after Rubio’s super PAC spent much of January blasting Christie’s record in New Jersey.
But the most withering hit from Christie came during Saturday’s debate, when he interrupted Rubio in the middle of a talking point, saying “there he goes again.”
“I think Chris was someone who somehow concluded that attacking me would help him in his campaign, obviously it didn’t work,” Rubio said on “The Situation Room.” “I don’t in any way hold that against him. I think he’s very talented, very likable. And I think he has a future in public service beyond what he’s doing now in New Jersey.”
Coming out of Iowa, Rubio appeared in a strong position to win the “establishment lane” of the Republican contest with a strong performance in New Hampshire. But instead, the Florida senator placed fifth — Republicans who voted said the debate performance was a key part of their decision, according to exit poll results.
Asked what his mistake was during the debate, Rubio said he had trouble pivoting away from “Republican-on-Republican violence” to President Barack Obama.
“Well, unfortunately, it created a distraction that didn’t allow us at the end of the campaign there to close with our message because everybody wanted to talk about the fact that I said the same thing a couple times,” Rubio said. “And it was a mistake in the sense that, I mean what I was trying to avoid, Wolf, was kind of an inner-party fight, I don’t like Republican-on-Republican violence in these debates.”