Marco Rubio sought to portray himself as the candidate of fresh economic ideas Tuesday by delivering a speech in Chicago focused on overhauling the country's higher-education system.
The Florida Republican derided existing colleges and universities as running a "cartel" more interested in blocking new competitors than embracing low-cost ways to teach students. As president, Rubio said, "within my first 100 days, we will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers."
Rubio has also proposed requiring universities to tell students in advance how much money they can expect to make with a given degree and allowing corporations to essentially pay for a student's tuition in return for a percentage of the student's paycheck after graduation. Elsewhere in his remarks, Rubio called for cutting the corporate-tax rate to 25 percent and rewriting immigration laws to give priority to workers needed in the economy rather than to family reunification.
Rubio has offered most of his ideas before, and critics were quick to point out Tuesday that he has not been able to pass any of them as law -- and in some cases hasn't even tried -- while he's been in the U.S. Senate. Some conservatives, including the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, have slammed Rubio's tax plan as a bad idea.
Still, Rubio used the speech as an opportunity to again try to cast the 2016 presidential race as one between the past and the future -- a contrast his campaign thinks will benefit the 44-year-old Cuban American.
He later referred to the "narrow and shortsighted" ideas of Clinton "and other outdated leaders" he didn't identify -- but Bush and his former-president father and brother may have been in mind.
"We have learned, painfully, that the old ways no longer work –- that Washington cannot pretend the world is the same as it was in the '80s. It cannot raise taxes like it did in the '90s. And it cannot grow government like it did in the 2000s," Rubio said.
"Marco Rubio talked today about hopping on a 'time machine to yesterday' -- but, let's be real, Retro Rubio is the only one here who is attempting to master time travel," Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Holly Shulman said in a statement. "Rubio continues to peddle the same failed Republican policies that cripple the economy and squeeze the middle class."
The crowd at downtown Chicago's 1871, an economic and tech incubator, seemed to skew young, but that didn't seem to much affect the question-and-answer session after Rubio's speech. The questions were typical and didn't particularly focus on tech policy. Cracking a joke about some of the traffic tickets he and his wife have received, Rubio did note that cars will soon drive themselves -- "which is good news for me if you've read some of the newspaper articles."
As a gift, Rubio was given a customized Chicago Blackhawks jersey with his name and the number 16 stitched on the back.
"There are not a lot of Rubios in the NHL," Rubio quipped. "They don't play hockey in Cuba."