Sen. Marco Rubio entered the U.S. presidential race Monday by offering the nation a younger generation of leadership that breaks free of ideas “stuck in the 20th century,” a jab at both Democratic favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton and his one-time Republican mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Standing in front of a banner that proclaimed “A New American Century” and repeating that refrain throughout his kickoff speech, the 43-year-old Cuban-American used his first turn as a Republican presidential candidate to take on two of America’s political dynasties. In doing so, he bet heavily on the electorate’s frustrations with Washington and his ability to change how his party is seen by voters.
“This election is not just about what laws we are going to pass,” Rubio told his evening rally. “It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be.”
He said it’s also a choice between the haves and have-nots, nodding to his own upbringing by working-class parents. “I live an exceptional country where the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who come from power and privilege.”
Earlier in the day, the first-term Republican from Florida spoke to his top donors and told them many families feel the American Dream is slipping away and young Americans face unequal opportunities. He’s banking on the hope that he, alone among many GOP rivals, can make inroads with groups that have long eluded Republicans – young people, minorities and the less affluent.
“I feel uniquely qualified to not just make that argument, but to outline the policies that we need to have in order to achieve it,” he said on the donor call.
In his televised speech, he told supporters, “The time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American century.”
“While our people and economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century,” he added.
Kelly Steele, 50, and her 18-year-old son wore tie-dyed Rubio T-shirts. “We have had a lot of Bushes,” Kelly Steele said, comparing Rubio to a youthful John Kennedy.
“Sen. Rubio kind of reminds me of JFK,” she said. “He’s got that energy and desire and momentum and excitement.”
On Tuesday April 14th, on his first day as a candidate, he is set to return to Washington to join a Senate hearing on a proposed deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions.
Rubio faces steep challenges to the nomination, including a well-funded one that Bush is expected to offer. The son of one president and brother of another, Jeb Bush was governor while Rubio was speaker of the Florida House. The two formed a close bond, but a presidential campaign was certain to test the strength of their friendship.
Rubio is the third major GOP contender to declare himself a candidate, after Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a field that could grow to 20 or more.
Rubio could make history as the nation’s first Hispanic president – as could Cruz.
A snapshot of where Florida Sen. Marco Rubio stands on issues likely to be debated during the Republican presidential primaries, as he enters the race.
Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, was a co-author of a bipartisan immigration overhaul that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Rubio backed off the issue, after the measure came under fire from conservatives, saying it could not win enough support in Congress.
Rubio now says that border security must be improved first, followed by revamping the process now used to allow people to immigrate. Rubio has been sharply critical of the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration, saying that the president has exceeded his constitutional power.
Rubio has been a consistent critic of Obama’s foreign policy efforts, including the president’s dealings with Latin American countries and he has called those policies naive, timid and neglectful. Rubio has been a leading critic of Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic ties to Cuba and called it a “victory for oppressive governments.”
His championing of American exceptionalism makes him more of hawk than some of his rivals. He was among 47 senators who signed a letter warning that Congress could upend the deal being worked out by the U.S., Iran and others to control Tehran’s nuclear program. The letter infuriated the White House, which considered the diplomatic deal the best way to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.
BUDGETS AND ENTITLEMENTS
Rubio, like many Republicans, has called for the repeal of Obama’s health care law. Although he’s criticized the growth of entitlement programs, he has called for increasing military spending. Rubio and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton wrote an opinion piece in March saying the armed forced will be “dangerously unready to deploy” if Congress does not reverse recent cuts to military spending.
This spring, he and Utah Sen. Mike Lee introduced a proposed overhaul of the tax code that would reduce the number of income tax brackets and reduce the corporate tax rate while also creating a new $2,500 child credit.
Last year, he proposed a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s anti-poverty programs. The main thrust of the proposal called for placing most of the programs into one central agency that would then hand out grants to states that would design their own programs.
COMMON CORE AND EDUCATION
Rubio opposes Common Core school standards and has been critical of federal support for the standards, saying it appears to be part of an effort to have a “national school board” impose a national curriculum.
That sets him apart from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of Common Core’s architects. Rubio backs school choice programs, including offering taxpayer-paid scholarships that let children attend private schools.
Rubio has consistently supported abortion restrictions during his political career. He’s said the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion should be overturned. In 2013 he was co-sponsor of a bill that would have banned abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, but included exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the woman.
Rubio said decisions whether to allow same-sex marriage should be left to states. He’s criticized judges for overturning bans of gay marriage and has said that some who support gay marriage have been hypocritical because they have been intolerant of those who do not agree with them.
He opposed a medical marijuana initiative that was on the 2014 ballot in his home state, but he did support legislation in Florida that authorized the limited use of a non-euphoric strain of the drug.
Rubio has acknowledged that the climate is changing, but he has expressed skepticism that it is being caused by human activity. He has also said that the threat of climate change does not justify pursuing policies that he contends would harm the economy.
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