Gingrich: 'Jeb is not a great fighter'
© Greg Nash

Former Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.) says former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.) erred by attacking Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Three dead, several injured in Pensacola naval station shooting MORE (Fla.) in the GOP’s third presidential debate.

“It was surprising Jeb would do that,” he said on Fox News’s “Outnumbered” on Thursday.

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“Jeb is not a great fighter,” Gingrich said. "He has lots of strengths, but being in that kind of back-and-forth brawl is not his strength.

“Rubio is very smart and very fast,” he added. "You don’t want to pick a fight with a guy like that unless you’re prepared to stick in the ring with him.

“I’m sure his staff had some clever strategy, [but] I’m not sure what Jeb was trying to accomplish there,” said Gingrich.

Bush, who once mentored Rubio in Florida, clashed with his one-time protégé during Wednesday evening’s debate in Boulder, Colo., hammering him for missing Senate votes.

“You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job,” Bush said. “There are a lot of people in Florida living paycheck to paycheck looking for a senator who will fight for them each and every day."

“The only reason [you are launching this attack] is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio countered.

Rubio also noted that Bush hadn't criticized Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for missing votes during his 2008 White House run.

Gingrich argued Thursday that the tense encounter played to Rubio's benefit rather than Bush’s.

“One of Rubio’s strengths, as comes up in every debate, is that he’s very likeable,” he said.

“Being likeable is about 80 percent,” Gingrich said. "They’ll listen to your words after they like you.

“Rubio has enormous latent advantages and I think the odds are going to be high that he’s on the ticket,” he added.

Gingrich said Bush should rely on his instincts in future debates.

“Debates are like jazz,” he said. "You’ve got to go in and follow the rhythm and follow the mood.

“If it feels right, do it,” Gingrich added. "If it doesn’t feel right, even if your advisers are excited, don’t do it.”