Marco Rubio Denies Jeb Bush Rift: “We’ll Remain Friends”

GOP 2016 Rubio

Senator Marco Rubio dismissed any notion that his decision to join the 2016 presidential race has placed a rift between the Florida senator and fellow Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush.

"We'll remain friends throughout this process," Rubio said of the former Florida governor, his longtime mentor and friend.

In a "Today" interview with host Matt Lauer, Rubio addressed a New York Times article suggesting that Rubio's plan to enter the presidential campaign signals a decisive turn in their 15-year relationship.

"Jeb Bush is my friend, and I think he would tell you the exact same thing" Rubio said. "I have respect for him, I have admiration for him, he'll be a very strong candidate. I just honestly believe at this moment in our history, we need to move in a new direction as a country."

Still, Rubio said he felt that he was "best positioned to help lead this country into the 21st century."

When asked whether he would automatically support Bush in the event of an unsuccessful run, Rubio said it's "too early to make a decision like that."

"I'm confident we'll be the nominee of the Republican party, but we have to earn it," he says.

Rubio told "Today" that the decision to run for president came just before Easter. He says he and his family prayed and talked about it, and that his wife and children were supportive.

"Senators can help lead us into the 21st century, but only presidents can lead us into the 21st century, and that's what I'm prepared to do," Rubio said of his decision.

Rubio also pointed out "significant differences, in terms of experience and background" between his run as a first-term senator and Barack Obama's first White House bid as U.S. senator from Illinois.

"I think our histories are much different," Rubio said. "I served in local government, I served at state government for nine years in the third largest state in the country. I was the speaker of the Florida House, all that before I even got to Washington four and a half years ago."

Rubio added that he will have served a full term in the Senate by the time he's potentially sworn in in 2017, unlike Obama.

If elected, Rubio would make history as the first Hispanic president in the United States. It's an honor he doesn't take for granted.

"It doesn't matter how your last name is pronounced, or where your parents came from, or where you started out in life. If you work hard and you persevere in this country, you can go as far as far as your talent and your work will take you," he said.

On Tuesday, Rubio's first day as a candidate, he is set to return to Washington to join a Senate hearing on the proposed deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions.

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