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U.S. Senate hopeful Marco Rubio touts conservative values at Crestview Chamber
During an appearance in Crestview Wednesday, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio wouldn’t bite when asked if he would attempt to out-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in his bid for the seat vacated by former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.
But Rubio didn’t shy away from drawing a distinct conservative line between himself and his better-known challenger for the 2010 GOP primary.
“He supported cap and trade,” Rubio said of Crist. “He supported the stimulus package. He supported amnesty for illegal aliens. These are all major issues that are going to be coming up in Washington.
“You have a right to believe in those things but it is hard to stand up to Barack Obama when you agree with him.”
Rubio spoke before a group of more than 40 people at the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce building on Commerce Drive. Rubio is the underdog in the Republican primary for the seat Martinez occupied until August when he unexpectedly announced he would step down 16 months before his term expired.
Although Democratic contenders for that party’s primary for the senate seat is fast becoming crowded, political pundits speculate many would-be Republican contenders have shied away from running against a popular governor.
Although Rubio confesses he is little known by many Floridians, he is gaining ground, according to a poll released earlier this month by Quinnipiac University, which showed Crist’s lead over Rubio had dwindled by nearly half.
Crist hasn’t ramped up his campaign, however, and still commands a substantial lead over Rubio, with 50 percent of respondents giving the governor the nod, versus 35 percent championing Rubio.
The need for support from Republican voters in Northwest Florida, with its plethora of military installations and conservative base, was one of the factors that prompted Rubio’s visit.
“This is the part of the state that gives Republicans victory in Florida,” Rubio said. “Without a doubt, this is an important area. You are going to see me a lot here.”
Rubio’s conservative bent could play well to Republican angst over the Democratic sweep in the nation’s capitol.
Rubio said the message he is getting from Republicans is they are “tired of apologizing for our principles.”
He criticized Washington Democrats attempts to “engineer society” and championed a return to limited government.
“The bigger the government, the harder it is to open up a business in the spare bedroom of your home,” Rubio said.
Government can’t create new jobs but it can get out of the way by reducing taxes and regulations that prevent economic expansion, was the thrust of his message.
He said the two main indicators of economic vitality are “how hard it is to find a job and how hard it is to start a business.”
One member of the audience wanted to know how Rubio feels about term limits.
Rubio, who served eight years in the Florida legislature, said he believes in term limits “because I know politics changes people.”
“The longer you are in office, the harder it is to fully identify what life is like outside of that office,” he said.
Another wanted his thoughts on the “war on terror.”
“The cost of not winning this war is higher than anything we can imagine,” he said, adding that the U.S. has to be committed to the fight in order to win support from both Afghanis and allies alike.
“How are they ever going to work with us if they believe America doesn’t have the resolve and the stomach it’s going to take defeat global terrorism?” he asked.
Martinez, the first Cuban-American elected to the U.S. Senate, successfully courted Florida's large Hispanic population during his election. Rubio's parents are Cuban emigrants.