OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- Marco Rubio declared himself the most conservative candidate in the race -- and the most electable -- as he made his closing argument before groups of Iowa Republicans on Tuesday.
"Of all the candidates running, no one has a conservative record that is more conservative than me. Look it up," he said in Oskaloosa, his second of four stops for the day. "Not just in the Senate, but my time as speaker of the House. I am as or more conservative than every other candidate running for president. Period. That’s not even a debate."
His Florida House record did carry more moderate notes on a variety of issues. And his role in writing the Senate's immigration bill has hurt him among some conservative voters.
Rubio is still running a distant third to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and is hoping to close the gap with Cruz before Monday's caucuses to give him momentum heading into New Hampshire.
He opened his stump speech with attacks on Barack Obama ("He wanted to change America.") Hillary Clinton ("disqualified") and Bernie Sanders ("socialist"). And he made an appeal to evangelicals, talking of protecting "all human life" and noting that he sends his children to Christian school where they are shielded from "the values they try to ram down our throat."
Rubio is promisng a lot. He vowed to reapeal "every single one" of Obama's "unconstitutional" executive orders, stop Common Core and to scrap the Iran nuclear deal. He also said he "led" the effort to "bail out" insurers under Obamacare, a claim he has overstated.
"You should be angry. Washington is out of touch," Rubio said, alluding to the sentiment that has propelled Trump and Cruz. But he quickly added that anger is not enough and solutions are needed.
Later in Marshalltown, Rubio cast himself as the most electable Republican, saying his upbringing and ideas would allow him to grow the party, by reaching more working class voters and younger voters.
One man said if Rubio did not win the nomination, he could run for governor.
Rubio stopped him to say he'd run for NFL commissioner instead.
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times