An enthusiastic crowd greeted Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio Saturday as the Florida U.S. senator promised to fix the mistake Americans made seven years ago by electing Barack Obama president.
The campaign estimates that 1,300 filed into the Gov. Jim Holshouser Building on the State Fairgrounds to listen to Rubio, who is on North Carolina’s March 15 presidential preference primary ballot. Other estimates placed the attendance at slightly less than 1,000.
“When I’m president of the United States next year, we won’t just have a president that goes around saying America is the greatest country in the world, we’re going to have a president that acts like America is the greatest country in the world,” Rubio said.
Joseph Coniker of Cary came to the rally as an undecided voter. And while he said he remains undecided, Rubio did nothing to hurt his cause. He said Rubio was “passionate.”
“I think he understands what needs to occur in the country,” Coniker said. “And he understands family, policy, and also the things that make this place tick — this place being our families and our country. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but this was very positive.”
Miriam Mathew, a Raleigh resident who is a legal immigrant from India, also had a positive impression of Rubio.
“He stands for everything I believe in,” Mathew said. “He’s also young. The safety of the nation is very important. If we don’t have a safe nation, we don’t have any economy at all.”
Nineteen-year-old Jonathan Rife of Apex, one of a number of younger voters in the crowd, will be casting his first vote for president this year.
“I think he definitely showed his strength in foreign policy,” Rife said. “I think that’s what the country really needs.”
Rife remarked that it was good to see other young voters at the rally. “The Democrats dominate the young people vote.”
Rife also said he liked Rubio’s support of a free-market economy. “My dad lost his job during the recession under President Obama,” Rife said. “I just see so many fellow classmates and people I love and I know, they can’t find good jobs anymore.”
Rubio said voters should support Republicans who separate themselves from the policy positions of the Obama years, and that Republicans should not assume that the best nominee is someone who’s spent a lifetime in Washington politics. “You can’t elect Republicans that agree with a lot of what Barack Obama’s for,” Rubio said. “We can’t elect the next person in line. … We’ve done that now for 20 years and nothing changes.”
“This election is a generational choice,” Rubio said. He said that American has a choice to either be greater than we’ve ever been, or be the first generation to leave our kids worse off than the previous one.
Kathy Turner of Raleigh said she was “really struck” with what Rubio’s focus on the future, agreeing with him about the necessity of leaving the country better off for the next generation.
Rubio said he’s the best person to take on likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton next fall.
“They attack me every day,” Rubio said of the Clinton campaign and its supporters. “Half their emails are all about me. They don’t want to run against me.” Rubio said.
“Hillary Clinton does not want to run against me, but I really want to run against her,” Rubio said.
Rubio said that on his first day as president, he would issue an executive order rescinding all of Obama’s “unconstitutional executive orders.” He said he also plans to call for an Article V constitutional convention of the states to adopt a balanced budget amendment, term limits for federal judges, and term limits for members of Congress.
He hit on a number of other issues.
On the economy and taxes, Rubio said he wants to fix the tax code so that businesses won’t want to move their corporate headquarters outside the United States. He also criticized Obama for abandoning free-market principles. “We’re going to return to free enterprise,” Rubio said.
Rubio said changes are needed for Social Security and Medicare, but not for people who now are eligible for those programs, noting that his mother is already receiving Social Security and Medicare. “I am against anything that is bad for my mom,” he said.
He told the crowd how a proposal he introduced helped wipe out an Obamacare bailout fund that shifts costs among insurance providers. “When I’m president, we’re getting rid of Obamacare and we’re going to put you back in charge of your own health care,” Rubio said.
As the son of Cuban immigrants who fled Fidel Castro’s dictatorship, Rubio said he understands immigration better than anybody else. “I know every aspect of this issue personally,” Rubio said. “This issue has changed.” He said ISIS is trying to use our immigration system against us. He said the immigration issue has become a national security issue.
“If we don’t know who you are 100 percent for sure and we don’t know why you’re coming 100 percent for sure, you’re not getting in,” Rubio said. “We are not going to have amnesty. Sanctuary cities are going to lose their federal funding.”
Rubio called for finishing 700 miles of fencing along key portions of the border, hiring more border patrol agents, adding cameras and sensors to prevent drug trafficking, and implementing a mandatory employment verification system for workers.
Rubio said the most important thing a president does is keep the country safe, saying that Obama has failed in that job. He noted some of the things other candidates are saying about terrorism.
“Talk is cheap, guys,” Rubio said. “You can’t carpet bomb ISIS if you don’t where they are,” he said, referring to recent remarks from presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “And you can’t carpet bomb them if you don’t have the Air Force to carpet bomb them with.”
Rubio also called for improving veterans’ benefits and allowing veterans who are not satisfied with the Veterans Administration to transfer their benefits and coverage to other hospitals and doctors.
Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.