MIAMI—Presidential candidate Marco Rubio spoke as the guest of honor at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner in his hometown on Saturday night.
Many in the sold-out crowd of 700 attendees passed by a group of about 20 protestors outside of the Doubletree Hotel at the Miami International Airport. One woman held a sign with a girl’s picture surrounded by the caption: “Marco Rubio: Will You Deport This U.S. Citizen’s Mom?” A group held a banner with a message in Spanish that translates to: “Rubio’s dream is our nightmare.”
Despite the interest of the pro-immigration demonstrators, the Republican senator did not address amnesty or border reform in his speech. Nor did Rubio mention his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, who recently announced his presidential candidacy but did not, notably, speak at the annual Miami-Dade Republican Party event. Instead, Rubio addressed Obamacare, taxes, energy, and human rights around the world—obliquely addressing immigration in a discussion about the American Dream of his parents.
“We will repeal and replace Obamacare before it repeals and replaces any more American jobs,” Florida’s junior senator told the audience.
He promised that a Rubio administration would help America “lead the world in producing oil and natural gas,” “end the dangerous cuts to our military,” “not forget those in jail in Tehran, Moscow, Havana, and Caracas,” and “appoint an attorney general and judges who will defend all Americans, including those who hold traditional values.”
Rubio’s message perhaps resonated most when he shifted from public policy to his personal history.
“My father worked at a portable bar in back of a hotel ballroom like this so I could be in front of the room at a podium like this,” the son of Cuban immigrants told the heavily Latino crowd. He added elsewhere, “I was told it wasn’t my turn to be president. But I was also told it wasn’t my turn to be a senator in 2009.”
In a recent Quinnipiac poll, Rubio outperformed all other Republican presidential aspirants in a head-to-head with Hillary Clinton save for Rand Paul. The Kentucky senator trailed the former secretary of state 46 percent to 42 percent, Rubio trailed 45 to 41, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Saturday night’s Man Who Was Not There, grabbed 37 percent to Mrs. Clinton’s 47 percent.
Ever the optimist, about his country and his chances to lead it, Senator Rubio maintained in his speech: “I believe we are one election from the greatest era in American history.”