Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) believes that by the close of the Republican National… (Andy Barron / Reno Gazette-Journal )
PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who will introduce Mitt Romney before he formally accepts the GOP nomination, said on Tuesday that voters will come away from the Republican National Convention with a clearer understanding of the choice they will make in November as well as a more intimate understanding of Romney.
“By the end of the week, it will be clear what a special person he is on the personal front, irrespective of how people may feel on the issues,” Rubio said of Romney.
“One of the most important things people will take away from this convention is that this is a man who has been an extraordinary husband, father, member of his community, leader in his church and someone who’s a role model in his personal life for so many of us,” he said in a brief interview after speaking at a South Carolina delegation breakfast.
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“I think this race is a clear choice, not between two bad people or a good person and a bad person, not even a choice between a Democrat and a Republican,” Rubio continued. “It is in many ways a choice about what we want government’s role to be in our country, and what government can be and should be doing to help our economy and our people.”
Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba and worked blue-collar jobs, also spoke of what his moment in the spotlight means personally. His father passed away during his race for the Senate in 2010 and his mother cannot travel but will watch the proceedings on television.
“On a personal level, I just hope my parents -- my dad wherever he is watching from and my mom watching from home -- I hope this is just one more affirmation that all the sacrifices they went through were worth it, that they were able to give us a chance to do whatever it is we wanted to do with our lives,” he said.
Rubio spoke to the South Carolina delegation -- an early primary state that is frequently courted by future contenders for the presidency -- and the Florida delegation.
He told the South Carolinians that President Obama ran as a politician who was above partisan squabbling and had squandered the unique mandate voters gave him.
“This is a president who has abandoned the historic opportunity he had to elevate American politics,” Rubio said. “It’s no more hope and change, it’s divide and conquer now.”
Later, addressing his home state delegation, he said Florida was vital to Romney’s presidential bid.
“We cannot win the White House without winning this state,” he said.
He told reporters that the GOP ticket’s prospects in the state were not harmed by Paul Ryan’s previous opposition to the embargo on most trade with Cuba.
“One of the things we take great pride in in my community is that when we go to Congress, we make friends with people and we inform them why the embargo is important and what it means for the cause of a free Cuba. And a lot of people change their mind after hearing from us,” as Ryan did, Rubio said.
Ryan’s controversial plan to push Medicare toward privatization will also not hurt the ticket’s prospects among the 3 million Floridians enrolled in the government health program, Rubio said, because nothing will change for current beneficiaries or those about to retire soon.
“Anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare the way it is right now is in favor of bankrupting it, and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the only ones in this race who have a serious plan to save Medicare,” Rubio said.
He also reflected on his 2010 Senate race against former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican who ended up running for the Senate as an independent and has now endorsed Obama.
“I ran back then against someone I believed behaved like a Democrat. I’m not sure what he’s doing nowadays,” Rubio said, adding, “I told you so.”
Rubio’s speech to the Florida delegation at the Innisbrook Golf Resort was interrupted four times by protesters who yelled about corporations needing to pay their fair share and the burden on the working class.
“I guess he’s not happy with the hotel assignment,” Rubio said when the first protester rose from his seat and began yelling. “Apparently he stumbled into the wrong convention.”
By the third interruption, the crowd began chanting, “Marco! Marco! Marco!”
Rubio responded, “Please don’t say Polo.”
Sheriff’s deputies were called and told protesters to leave the property or face arrest for trespassing.
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