January 28, 2016

Marco Rubio's final TV ads in Iowa


WEST DES MOINES -- Marco Rubio's campaign put out two new TV ads in Iowa over the past two days, aiming for what his aides call a "strong close" in Monday's caucuses.

One spot, released Wednesday, focuses on Rubio's love of families and faith. The other, released Thursday, hones in on Democrat Hillary Clinton. Both feature the Florida senator speaking directly into the camera.

No campaigns (including super PACs) have spent more on Iowa TV than Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.



January 27, 2016

MSNBC's Chris Matthews: 'Who's going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys?'


MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews is apparently worried about rival Fox News Channel's debate ratings.

When front-runner Donald Trump said Tuesday he'd skip Fox's Thursday night debate in Iowa, the Hardball host asserted a televised exchange led by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz wouldn't be worth it. He chose to dismiss Cruz and Rubio as "the two Cuban guys."

"Who's going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys?" Matthews asked a reporter who was at Trump's event in Marshalltown, Iowa. "Who's going to watch the debate between Rubio, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz? Who cares?

"Because, you know, they've been sort of fighting in this little inter-league fight over who's the hawkish guy, or whatever. Who's going to watch that Thursday night? Maybe I'm building it up too much."

Neither Rubio nor Cruz were born in Cuba and don't have Cuban citizenship. Rubio was born in Miami to Cuban parents. Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother.

Watch the clip here.

What Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio had to say about Donald Trump's plans to skip GOP debate


Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush showed no patience for Donald Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Republican primary debate in Des Moines, the last one before Monday's Iowa caucuses.

Bush took to Twitter on Tuesday:

Rubio issued a statement Wednesday:

America is heading in the wrong direction, and people are right to be angry about it. But it’s not enough just to be angry. The next President has to have a real plan to turn the page on Obama and his disastrous policies, and they have to be willing and able to sell that plan to the American people. That’s why these debates are so important.

These kinds of theatrics by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are an entertaining sideshow, but they have nothing to do with defeating Hillary Clinton. I’m going to stay focused on uniting the Republican Party so we can defeat Hillary Clinton and turn the page on eight years of liberal failure. We don’t have time for these kinds of distractions.

Neither Floridian could match another GOP presidential contender, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who quipped to Fox News on Wednesday: "The IQ of the debate went up a couple dozen points, I would say."

Marco Rubio's campaign bus rolls through Iowa



WEST DES MOINES -- Here's something Florida voters haven't seen yet: a presidential candidate's swanky, personalized campaign bus.

But it's not an unusual sight in Iowa, which holds its caucuses Monday. Candidates rely on the buses to trek across the snowy fields in the vast state state.

Marco Rubio's bus has been making its way around the state. We spotted it several times in Des Moines between Tuesday and Wednesday. The candidate is spending nine straight days in Iowa, making a final push to Republican voters.

Marco Rubio's got an Iowa super fan


via @learyreports

OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- Jim Wilson is Marco Rubio’s No. 1 fan in Iowa, showing up at each of the candidate’s events in his 2003 Chevy Silverado festooned with Rubio campaign logos. He plants a giant American flag in the back.

But Wilson, 72, of Buckingham, Va., never goes inside the meeting halls, schools and hotel banquet rooms. “They are boring. I could give the goddamn speech,” he says, laughing, a pipe freshly packed with Captain Black hanging from his mouth.

Politicos know Wilson. He did the same for Mitt Romney in 2012, charming reporters with his salty tongue and determined spirit. He stays in Motel 6 because it’s cheap and he can smoke, his last vice. 

“I have two requirements: clean sheets and hot water. I just sleep and go,” Wilson said Tuesday morning outside American Legion Post 34 in Oskaloosa, where Rubio was holding a town hall.

Wilson settled on Rubio about two weeks ago. He also likes John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, but says Kasich has no real shot at winning the nomination. What Rubio, 44, lacks in experience he makes up for in biography and focus on foreign policy, Wilson said.

“Rubio’s story truly is what makes America great. Two of my grandparents came through Ellis Island from Sweden. On the other side we have no idea. They probably were pirates.”

Continue reading "Marco Rubio's got an Iowa super fan" »

In Iowa, Marco Rubio says he can unify GOP, if not the country



WEST DES MOINES -- He doesn't quite put it this way, but Marco Rubio's closing pitch to Iowa voters is that he's the best of both worlds.

He's the conservative upstart who made it to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and to the presidential race in 2016 against the advice of the deans of the GOP. And he's the likable senator for the nation's largest swing state who doesn't scare away middle-of-the-road Republicans.

In other words, he's not Jeb Bush or John Kasich. But he's also not Donald Trump or Ted Cruz

"I'm going to bring this party back together," Rubio promised several hundred people at a town hall-style campaign event Tuesday night. "If we're not together, we lose."

He didn't make a similar promise about bringing the whole country together. Indeed, the long list of goals he rattled off for his potential administration -- repealing environmental and immigration protection rules, undoing a nuclear agreement with Iran, rewriting the Affordable Care Act -- would probably alienate many Democrats and independents.

But Rubio didn't see it that way. He could bring the Republican Party's warring outside and establishment factions together, he said -- and then expand the GOP, though how he'd go about doing that wasn't exactly clear.

"We've got to go out and convince more people to join us," Rubio said. "I will do that. I will grow our party, and I will grow the conservative movement."

The Florida senator did, briefly, mention non-conservatives whom he'd have to appeal to in order to win a general election.

"I'm going to be a president for all Americans," he said. "That includes the people who don't vote for me."

Jeb Bush allies attack Marco Rubio's Florida GOP card spending

From the Tampa Bay Times:

The Right to Rise super Pac backing Jeb Bush has released a new ad in Iowa that attacks Marco Rubio for his personal use of Republican Party of Florida credit card.

It is the first time an opponent has used the controversy surrounding the credit card in an attack ad.

For years, Rubio has tried to get past the scandal of his spending on the RPOF credit card when he was speaker of the Florida House. Last November, he took the unusual step of releasing nearly two years of American Express statements to show how he spent the party's money.

In the new commercial, Right to Rise says Rubio put "$22,000 in personal expenses on a Republican Party credit card.

Rubio's communications director Alex Conant told the Times, "It's pathetic that Jeb Bush's PAC would recycle this false attack that the establishment flopped with in 2010. Jeb Bush endorsed Marco in 2010 and recommended him to be vice president in 2012 knowing these issues are totally false and discredited. It's sad how this campaign has changed Jeb into a desperate establishment politician reaching for new lows in order to save himself."

January 26, 2016

To Iowans, Marco Rubio casts himself as outsider


Marco Rubio's latest TV ad in Iowa features people tuning into a Rubio speech on TV, listening to him make his final pitch before Monday's caucuses.

"Washington is broken and both parties are to blame," the Florida senator says. "But it will never get better if we keep sending people to Washington who will say or do anything to get elected."


Marco Rubio: 'Windfall' for Cuba from latest U.S. export regulations


The Obama administration published new regulations Tuesday for U.S.-Cuba exports. Once again, the president's move to normalize relations between the two countries was slammed by Miami's Cuban-American Republican members of Congress, starting with Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

"The Obama Administration's one-sided concessions to Cuba further empower the regime and enable it with an economic windfall," Rubio said in a statement. "These regulations are more proof that the Obama Administration's intent has never been to empower the Cuban people but rather to empower the Cuban government's monopolies and state-run enterprises.

"Our U.S. policy toward Cuba should be driven by our national security interests, securing greater political freedoms and defending the human rights of the Cuban people, none of which are advanced through Obama's latest concessions."

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also weighed in with a statement accusing President Barack Obama of trying to undercut the trade embargo that can only be lifted by Congress.

This brazen attempt to allow direct trade with the Castro regime has revealed fully that President Obama's policy has nothing to do with supporting the Cuban people but has everything to do with propping up a brutal, anti-American dictatorship 90 miles from our shores. 

With political arrests surpassing 8,000 last year and brave political prisoners such as Vladimir Morera Bacallao, Danilo Maldonado Machado ('El Sexto'), and Misael Canet Velazquez nearly perishing in prison over the past several months, the Castro regime's human rights record remains the worst in our hemisphere. Shamefully, for the first time since the murderous Castro regime seized power decades ago, we have a U.S. president who repeatedly sides with the oppressors over the oppressed. 

However, the majority in Congress and every Cuban-American member, whether Democrat or Republican, whether in the House or Senate, continues to fiercely oppose President Obama's appeasement of the Castro regime. In contrast to the President, we remain in steadfast solidarity with Cuba's true leaders -- the political prisoners and human rights activists who risk everything to demand change in Cuba. We will continue to oppose the Obama-Castro deals that undermine the Cuban people's struggle for freedom by supporting their jailers.

In Iowa, Marco Rubio calls himself 'most conservative' candidate


via @learyreports

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