A delayed Sen. Marco Rubio took the stage at CPAC this afternoon to warn Americans about the looming takeover of the Republican party and the conservative movement by Donald Trump.
“Young Americans won’t have a chance if the conservative movement is hijacked by somebody who isn’t a conservative,” Rubio said. His supporters cheered wildly, as it was clear he was referring to Trump.
Rubio fans packed the CPAC ballroom early to see their preferred choice for president but had to wait nearly 40 minutes before he took the stage. Some of them spent their time singing and clapping to the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” as they waited, while others groaned and cursed under their breath.
When he finally appeared, Rubio immediately pointed out that he had the flu.
“I feel 45 this week, because I have had the flu,” he said, and coughed.
“Do you want some water?” one supporter shouted, but was ignored.
Rubio’s voice has suffered since he began voraciously attacking Donald Trump and picking up the pace of his campaign rallies. During the debate, Rubio only fist-bumped his fellow candidates to show that he was sick.
After his speech, Rubio raised his water bottle and grinned, joking that it had become his “running mate.”
“That never gets old, does it?” CNN’s Dana Bash said as they sat down to answer questions.
Conservatives in the room were surprised as Bash, a mainstream media reporter,took the stage to ask questions of the candidate.
Many in the crowd booed as Bash began the forum with electoral process questions and questions about Donald Trump. One man shouted ,“Ask him about him!” repeatedly to show his disapproval.
At one point, Bash said she was putting on her “mom hat” to discuss the “vulgar” nature of the campaign. Rubio complained that the press was too focused on the day to day drama rather than the issues that faced the country.
Rubio suggested that Trump could be a president with the same vulgar values as Bill Clinton.
“I don’t want us to have a president that would constantly have to be explaining to our kids, look, I know that is what the president did, but you should not do that. I don’t want that,” he said, alluding to Clinton. “We actually had a president like that not long ago. It was bad.”
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) March 5, 2016
The choice for Bash to question Rubio was made by CPAC, according to a source in the Rubio campaign — and he wasn’t grilled on any conservative issues.
The CPAC schedule initially had a bit of drama featuring Donald Trump in the morning followed by Rubio shortly afterwards. But with Trump absent, the day at CPAC belonged to Rubio.
He opened up his speech reminding the audience of the time he beat the establishment choice Charlie Crist for Senate, an underdog who beat expectations.
During his interview with Bash, Rubio predicted that he would win it again. He said:
I can tell you this, we will win the state of Florida. We will beat Donald Trump there the way we beat Charlie Crist. I have experience at beating people who don’t say who they truly are. I have experience at beating people who portray themselves to as one thing but are actually something else, and you are going to find that out on March 15 in Florida.
After his speech the campaign went back on the trail, with a campaign rally scheduled in Puerto Rico.