Donald Trump said Tuesday that he does not think that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida can capture the GOP presidential nomination given his record on immigration.
The New York billionaire has aimed more fire at Mr. Rubio since last week’s GOP debate in Colorado where the freshman lawmaker was showered with praise for his performance.
“Look at Marco’s stance on illegal immigration,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference in which he rolled out his latest book, called “Crippled America.” “It is really trouble for him. I don’t see how he can win.”
Mr. Rubio helped usher a bill through the Senate in 2013 as part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that included GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, as well as Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois.
The bill, which passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote with the help of 14 Republicans, would have provided a quick path to legal status for most illegal immigrants, as well as an eventual path to citizenship.
Mr. Rubio has since said he learned a lesson from the experience, and said voters will not trust Congress on immigration until they are sure the nation’s borders have been secured.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants and for eliminating the policy of granting automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump also called Mr. Rubio’s personal finances a “disaster” and said “he certainly lives above his means — there is no question about that.”
And he said Jeb Bush was correct to criticize Mr. Rubio in the debate for missing dozens of voters in the Senate, but said the former Florida governor struggled to make the point because he is a “weak” messenger.
“I mean if that was me delivering that message, it would have been a much different story,” Mr. Trump said. “Marco is a sitting senator, and he doesn’t show up for the people of Florida, and I don’t think he should be doing that.”
Mr. Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are running neck-and-neck in national polls and hold double-digit leads over their rivals, riding a populist surge fueled by voter discontent with elected leaders in Washington.
Mr. Trump recently ceded the top spot to Mr. Carson in polls in Iowa, but he still holds nearly an 18 percentage point lead in New Hampshire and a 13 percentage point edge in South Carolina.