Carlos Beruff, a real estate developer, criticized Obama's running of the country and military in an address to Florida Republicans caught on video and first reported by The Huffington Post.
“Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, okay, seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military," he said in the speech.
Opponents on both sides of the aisle have since called on Beruff to apologize.
"I think the comment is replete with racial overtones, and he should apologize immediately," Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla, said in a brief interview with ABC News on Capitol Hill today. "I don't think there's any place in modern American politics or political discourse to call the president of the United States an animal."
In a statement, Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., another candidate running to replace Rubio, called Beruff's remarks "offensive" and "extremely disrespectful."
"In the U.S. Senate, our diverse state deserves better than Mr. Beruff’s clear record of bigotry," he said.
Beruff and his campaign have defended his comments and said they were taken out of context.
"The Democrats think it is a mistake for me to use strong language condemning them for hollowing out our military and making America weaker. I think it is a mistake for them to hollow out our military and make America weaker," he said in a statement.
Beruff is one of several Republicans running to replace Rubio.