Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined many Republicans in distancing himself from Mitt Romney’s remarks to donors that President Barack Obama won the 2012 election by doling out “gifts” to minorities and young voters.
Rubio, whose top aides used to work for Romney, was more gentle than Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who denounced Romney’s comments at a press conference during the Republican Governors Association meeting.
Rubio said he did not want to rebut Romney’s comments “point-by-point” because he had not seen the full context. He downplayed the comments as an “analysis to donors” and said the Republican party’s mission should “not be do to deny government benefits to people who need them,” but to ensure “less people need government benefits.”
“I would just say to you, I don’t believe that we have millions and millions of people in this country that don’t want to work,” Rubio said. “I’m not saying that’s what he said. I think we have millions of people in this country that are out of work and are dependent on the government because they can’t find a job.”
Rubio said the “challenge for the conservative movement” going ahead is to have its ideas help turn the economy around to make more people prosperous and less dependent on government.
Rubio also said he had “tremendous admiration” for Romney as a person, thought he was a “good candidate” who would have been a “great president,” and added that he hoped Romney would “stay involved with our party and stay involved with conservatism.”
Rubio and Jindal will most likely be competitors for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Jindal on Tuesday said he “absolutely” rejected Romney’s notion and that Romney’s comments were “absolutely wrong,” before emphasizing that “one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election” has to be that Romney’s comments do not represent “where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party.”