PELLA, IOWA – Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio says “the entire Republican establishment came against me” when he decided to run for president in 2016.
Speaking at the Pella Golf and Country Club to an audience of about one hundred people, Rubio painted himself as a conservative outsider, advocating for border security and taking a shot at rival Ted Cruz’s foreign policy.
Rubio said that when he first ran for Senate in 2010, “The entire Republican establishment came against me.”
“When I decided to run [for president], the entire Republican establishment came against me again. They came to me and told me, ‘Don’t run. Wait. It’s not your turn.'”
Rubio said that he replied, “Wait for what?”
Introduced by Rep. Trey Gowdy, who played up Rubio’s national security credentials, Rubio instead focused on immigration and social issues.
“Immigration is more about national security,” Rubio said, noting that foreign enemies are “using our immigration system to get fighters and killers into the United States…if we can not confirm or know 100 percent for sure why you are coming here and what for, you will not be allowed into the United States. That’s not hateful. It’s common sense.”
“There is no one running for president who understands immigration better than I do…enforcing our immigration laws is not anti-immigrant…We have a right to decide who comes here.”
Rubio pledged to complete 700 miles of “fencing and walls” on the U.S.-Mexico border, and to devote new technologies to border security.
Rubio also hinted that he has thought about, but did not commit, to shutting off refugees for national security reasons.
“If you say that we want to closely vet people who are coming in as refugees, or even stop it, they say, that’s hateful,” Rubio said.
Rubio also took a noticeable shot at Sen. Ted Cruz, who recently said that he would carpet-bomb ISIS into oblivion and would make the sands of the Middle East glow in the dark. Rubio directly quoted Cruz’s line, but added, “Well, you can’t kill the terrorists if you don’t know where they are.”
Rubio also made a bolder-than-usual statement about Islam’s role in terrorism.
“I cannot ignore the fact that they are Islamic,” Rubio said of Muslim radicals in the Middle East. Rubio also said that terrorists are “motivated” by their “faith.”
Rubio played up his Christian background in the aftermath of remarks by Donald Trump that not many evangelicals come from Cuba. Rubio discussed the remark privately with Gowdy earlier in the morning.
Rubio vowed to defend traditional marriage, to “value life at every stage,” to abolish the Common Core school reform program, and to “use the bully pulpit of the White House” to call for a convention of the states, which conservatives including radio host Mark Levin and tea party leader Mark Meckler have been trying to organize for several years.
The predominately older middle-class crowd expressed the most interest in terrorism-related issues. One audience member told Breitbart News before the speech that he was unsure about Rubio but he appreciated Gowdy’s work in grilling Hillary Clinton during her Benghazi testimony.