Greenville, S.C. — In the latest volley in the war of insults between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Cruz’s campaign is attacking Rubio for missing the Conservative Review Forum here tonight. Rubio was scheduled to speak, but ultimately did not attend.
“This is a final admission that Marco Rubio isn’t even going to try to compete for the votes of conservatives in South Carolina or anywhere else. And who can blame him? Rubio isn’t conservative,” said Rick Tyler, Cruz’s communications director, in a statement. “Instead Rubio and his campaign would rather hide behind their deceptive campaign tactics and liberal record on amnesty for illegals and voting to nominate John Kerry.
Rubio’s campaign says his absence was the result of a scheduling problem. “Our schedule got blown up this evening and we were running really late,” emails Rubio communications director Alex Conant.
Conant blasted back at the Cruz campaign, accusing them of dirty campaigning.
“Did the Cruz campaign really take a break from photoshopping pictures and recording false robocalls to send out this false press release? This ridiculous attack is just the latest example of Ted Cruz’s willingness to do or say anything in this campaign,” Conant emails.
But Mark Levin, the editor-in-chief of Conservative Review and the ringmaster of the forum, knocked Rubio for his absence.
“It was pretty damn rude of Rubio, quite frankly,” he told reporters after the forum. Rubio’s campaign sent Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy, two of Rubio’s top surrogates in South Carolina, to the convention to represent him, but Levin said the orgnanizers did not permit them to speak in his place. “This isn’t about surrogates speaking. Are they running for President of the United States? This is about the candidate speaking. So my position was that if the conservative convention isn’t good enough for Marco Rubio, it isn’t good enough for his surrogates.”
The decision was consistent with the policy that had imposed on other candidates, said Gaston Mooney, the executive editor of Conservative Review. Jeb Bush had previously asked to send surrogates, he said, and organizers had told him they would not permit surrogates to speak in his place.
“This is a conservative convention. And he chose—first he said he was coming, and then he didn’t come. So the voters can draw their own conclusions for it,” Levin said of Rubio.