Marco Rubio has raised more than $1m since the Republican presidential debate less than three days ago, a campaign aide said on Saturday.
The news came shortly before NBC released the transcript of an interview in which Jeb Bush denied having seen a memo to donors that outlined his campaign’s attack plan against Rubio and was leaked after a debate in which the former Florida governor was widely considered to have been beaten by the serving Florida senator.
“I didn’t see it,” Bush said in the interview with Meet the Press, which was scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday. “I didn’t see it. I don’t know.”
Bush added that he “read about it when [it] was leaked for sure”, but said he had not known about “the PowerPoint”.
The PowerPoint was presented at a closed-door donor retreat in Houston last week, where Bush gathered with his influential family to assuage skeptics within their vast network of financial backers.
In the presentation, which was leaked to some outlets while a 112-page file was acquired in full by the US News and World Report, donors to the Bush campaign were told “Marco is a GOP Obama” and the “press obsession” with the debates did not matter.
The leaked material also revealed plans to attack Rubio’s financial past and ties to billionaires. One slide said: “Those who have looked into Marco’s background in the past have been concerned with what they found there.”
A Bush aide told US News and World Report the line referred to when Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign team vetted Rubio for vice-president. A former Romney adviser, Beth Myers, said this week nothing had been found.
Bush’s team has also gone after Rubio’s low Senate attendance. Rubio dismissed such criticisms on Friday, repeating his line from the debate that Bush had been convinced “that the way forward is to attack me”.
“And that’s fine. Everybody makes their own decisions,” Rubio said. “I just don’t think it’s a smart thing for Republicans to do Hillary Clinton’s job for her.”
Asked by Meet the Press host Chuck Todd if the attack plan was “something you want your campaign involved with”, Bush said: “I want to unify the party and I’m focused on that.”
Rubio’s fundraising boost, largely in the way of small donations, follows a debate that was dubbed his breakthrough moment. The Florida senator walked away with most of the accolades and on Friday earned the backing of Paul Singer, an influential Republican mega-donor who was also being courted by Bush.
Rubio’s campaign had previously pointed to a haul of $750,000 in online donations by Thursday, less than 24 hours after the debate was held. The numbers are especially significant for Rubio, who raised just $5.7m in the third quarter and will need substantial resources to remain competitive in a crowded Republican field.
The 44-year-old senator’s fortunes appear to be rapidly changing since the most recent debate, when he was challenged on stage by Bush, the former governor of Florida and a one-time Rubio ally. The night was meant to be a critical test for Bush and his struggling campaign, but his underwhelming performance did little to quell concerns among donors.
The resulting fallout would be especially beneficial to Rubio, who has been competing for the Republican presidential nomination in the same lane. Bush, the son and brother of US presidents, came into the race with a record-setting war chest of nearly $100m.
But he also had a disappointing third quarter in terms of money raised and now risks defections among his financial backers to the increasingly viable Rubio, who will embark on several fundraising trips in the coming week as he seeks to capitalize on the momentum coming out of the debate.
The piqued national interest nonetheless brings with it greater scrunity, bringing to an end the Rubio campaign’s strategy of keeping a low profile.
The impact of his strong debate showing was palpable on Friday night in Orange City, Iowa, when he addressed an audience of socially conservative evangelical voters, and on Saturday in Des Moines, where Rubio participated in a Republican cattle call at the state fairgrounds.
In Des Moines he was received like a rock star, after delivering a speech laced with his usual generational contrasts to both Bush and Clinton. As Rubio walked back to his campaign’s booth at the event, he was surrounded by swell of reporters, fans and even professional autograph collectors, who saw an opportunity for profit.
For nearly 30 minutes, Rubio was flanked by people desperately seeking selfies and signatures. He studiously ignored a pack of reporters that his staffers worked diligently to keep at bay.
Although Rubio’s poll numbers and lean operation in Iowa do not have him registering just yet as a frontrunner, on Saturday, at least, he was received like one.
He might soon find his main competitor, meanwhile, to be Ted Cruz, another first-term senator who has a formidable following among grassroots conservatives. Cruz, of Texas, had his own big debate moment when he declared “war on the liberal media”. He raised $1.1m in the next 24 hours, his campaign said.
This article titled “Republican rising star Rubio raises $1m as Bush denies seeing attack plan” was written by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and Ben Jacobs in Des Moines, Iowa, for theguardian.com on Saturday 31st October 2015 21.40 UTC