WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Friday called front-runner Donald Trump a "con artist," pledging to expose the real estate mogul and pressure him to reveal his finances.
In a series of television interviews, the U.S. senator from Florida said working-class voters are being fooled by Trump's lofty promises, despite his own string of lawsuits and the bankruptcies of Trump-related companies.
"We are not going to turn over the conservative movement to a con artist who is telling people one thing but has spent 40 years sticking it to working Americans and now claims to be their champion," he said on NBC's "Today" program.
Rubio's comments echoed the attacks he and fellow senator and candidate Ted Cruz made on Trump during Thursday's heated televised debate in Texas, one of 11 U.S. states set to vote in nominating contests on Tuesday.
Trump, in a post on Twitter Friday morning, fired back by saying: "Lightweight Marco Rubio was working hard last night. The problem is, he is a choker, and once a choker, always a chocker (sic)! Mr. Meltdown."
"He's says I'm a choker?" Rubio responded in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America." "He's a con artist. It's a fraud. We're going to expose him."
With Trump leading in opinion polls in nearly all of the "Super Tuesday" contests, Republicans are recognizing the brash mogul and reality television star is likely to be their nominee even as Rubio and Cruz try to shake up the race ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Rubio, who has admittedly struggled with his own personal finances such as student loans, accused Trump of withholding his tax records because they likely show "he's not as rich as he claims to be."
Trump, who puts his fortune at $10 billion, has said he would release his tax records in coming months but said he cannot release his them now because he is being audited.
"He's making things up," Rubio told NBC. "We need to see those returns to see if the difference between the audited version and what he filed if there is evidence of wrongdoing."
Asked if his strategy to push back against Trump now comes too late, Rubio said he was fighting for the good of his party. He said he would continue to gain support on Tuesday and predicted a win in his home state of Florida on March 15.
(Reporting by Washington newsroom; Editing by Bill Trott)