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UPDATED Mitt Romney calls on South Carolina to take down Confederate flag


Mitt Romney said Saturday that South Carolina should take down the Confederate flag from its state Capitol.

His comment echoed remarks he made as a presidential hopeful in 2007. Eight years later, Romney's position puts 2016 Republican presidential candidates on the spot -- and either made it easier for them to say the same thing, or harder for them to disagree.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who took down the flag from the state Capitol in 2001, noted that experience in a statement Saturday that seemed to suggest -- but didn't explicitly say -- that South Carolina do the same.

"My position on how to address the confederate flag is clear," he said. "In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged. This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state. Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward and I'm confident they will do the right thing."

Bush canceled a Charleston campaign event scheduled for Thursday after the Wednesday night shooting of nine people at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. 

"It breaks my heart that somebody, a racist, would do the things he did," he told the Hillsborough County Republican Party on Friday night, referring to the accused gunman.

UPDATE: Before speaking at the Miami-Dade Republican Party's Lincoln Day fund-raiser Saturday night in Miami, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters South Carolina's decision should not be dictated by "outsiders."

"What's important to remember -- because this is happening in the aftermath of a horrible tragedy -- is you had one individual full of hate in his heart who carried out an act motivated by racial hatred, and it's an atrocity," Rubio said.

He added that South Carolina has dealt with questions over its Confederate flag before and reached a "bipartisan consensus" to have it at its current location.

"I have confidence in their ability to deal with that issue again," he said. "This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do about it."

Asked if he "supported" Florida's (that is, Bush's) decision in 2001, Rubio said, "I support that decision. And I think that ultimately the people of South Carolina will make the right decision of South Carolina."

The Huffington Post reported Friday that, as a state lawmaker, Rubio supported legislation in 2001 that purported to protect monuments of historical significance but was seen as a direct response to Bush's action intended to protect the Confederate flag's place in public places.