The most-serious and honest political discussion didn't happen under the official Republican National Convention banner.
It occurred just up the street, where Florida Sen. Marco Rubio joined Jon Stewart in Tampa on The Daily Show. Laced with humor and all-too short, the back-and-forth showed why Stewart is one of the best interviewers in the business and why Rubio is probably his party's best standard bearer.
The two also seem to genuinely like each other. And Rubio should be particularly happy about that. He wasn't picked to be the RNC's keynote speaker (NJ Gov. Chris Christie was), but the Daily Show broadcast is sure to be watched by as many, if not more, people than those who see Christie's speech.
Here's some of the banter that happened in the web-only broadcast:
On taking the stimulus:
Rubio: "The bottom line is ultimately the state is going to do what’s in the best interest of the state
"I was not a fan of the stimulus a) because it was borrowed money and I didn’t think the rate of return on it was good enough. We now owe $800 billion for it and really didn’t get any economic growth as a result of it, certainly not the kind of economic growth that we’re looking for."
Stewart: "But it got you some..."
Rubio: "But not the kind that you would have thought for $800 billion." A third of it was tax incentives and tax cuts. Florida had the battery plant, the SAFT. "Do you know that one, SAFT?"
Rubio: "I’m not familiar with it.."
Stewart: "Well, I read the Florida papers.."
Rubio: "I only read the accurate ones…"
Stewart ….. "You sent someone from your office there."
Rubio: "At the end of the day, the bottom line is the stimulus didn’t work the way it was promised to work. And now we owe a trillion dollars…. A much better approach would have been meaningful tax reform."
Rubio: "No one has their hands clean in Washington.
Stewart: "It seems like when Obama came in.,… they set upon a specific strategy to deny himm any bipartisan appeal as part of a plan to submarine whatever agenda he had.."
Rubio: "That’s what he would say…"
The crowd jeers.....
Stewart: Isn’t it the government’s role to step in and provide for the loss of private money?
Rubio: “It didn’t work. It failed. ….. What has worked for longterm sustainable growth is a tax code, a regulatory code that protects us and that certainly generates revenue for government but it’s also predictable, stable and incentivizes the investment in our future.”
"The focus on corporations is misplaced….. There is actually an incentive to keep your money offshore because if you return it to the US the tax treatment of it goes… The biggest beneficiaries of big government are big corporations… because they can hire the best lawyers in America to figure out the loopholes. And if they really don’t like the rules they can afford the best lobbyists in America to try and change those rules.
"The folks I’m talking about trying to help it’s not the big corporations, it’s the small and mid-sized businesses that wants to compete with the big corporations."
Stewart: "I think it’s naïve to say that Big government is what’s keeping small businesses from competing with giant corporations..."
Rubio: "The best regulator of corporations getting out of hand is other corporations getting out of hand is a competitor putting it out of business. Ask Blockbuster Video..."
Stewart: "Blockbuster Video didn’t have competition from other video stores…"
Rubio: "It sure did. It had competition from a whole new industry that was invented to competed with them because it had a better product..."
Stewart: "Yeah, but that’s like saying ask horses about carriages.... Ask small software developers about Microsoft. That’s a much better example. Because it’s not that the whole paradigm shifted. It’s that Microsoft’s business practices were anti-competitive. Somebody had to step in and say you’re not allowed to do that."
Stewart: "One of the things I absolutely think destroys authoritarian regimes is openness.... I think it would weaken Castro, although… he’s got to be a cyborg."
Rubio: "China’s been flooded with competition and private companies. How well has that worked for political freedom..."
Stewart: "I think it’s done…"
Rubio: "Political freedom? If you do the wrong internet search, you’re going to jail."
Stewart: "I think, in China, you look at it from Tianamen Square. There have been advances that they’ve made....
"Here’s what I think: I think you should leave the Senate. I don’t think you like the Senate. It’s not for you. You should take over for Rick Scott. Florida deserves a governor with hair."