Marco Rubio thanked his most faithful loyalists Saturday by making the kind of promise only they would appreciate:
“¡Vamos a llevar una caja china a la Casa Blanca!” he told an overwhelmingly Cuban-American audience in West Miami. We’re going to bring a caja china – a Cuban pork roaster - to the White House.
“¡Y una cafetera!” he added. And a stovetop moka pot, to make Cuban espresso.
And with that, he brought the house down.
It was a rainy Saturday, and hundreds of people had gathered at 8 a.m., paying at least $20 each, to get a glimpse of the rising Republican presidential candidate. They nibbled on pastelitos and sandwichitos and fanned themselves in the stuffy heat – and hung on to every word Rubio said, mostly in Spanish.
The venue, a West Miami community center, was fitting. Rubio’s first election was to the West Miami city commission. The room he spoke in is named after the city’s former mayor and his political godmother, Rebeca Sosa, who introduced him as “the greatest son of the city of West Miami.”
Rubio relished the moment, saying he met his wife, Jeanette, as a teenager playing volleyball in an adjacent park. The rapper Pitbull also played there, Rubio claimed.
“My campaign in West Miami was mostly in Spanish,” Rubio said, in Spanish. “Things have changed a little bit.”
He brought his wife on stage and mentioned it was her birthday. The crowd immediately started singing. “You saved me a bunch of money on a party!” Rubio quipped.
He was on a roll of jokes and anecdotes, which he sprinkled as he delivered his main campaign message about protecting the American Dream and promoting hawkish foreign policy.
“I have never had a Spam croqueta, and I never will!” he pledged at one point, after ticking off a list of food items Cuban exiles received from charity organizations when they arrived in Miami, including peanut butter and Spam.
When he thanked the crowd for showing up so early, a woman hollered in Spanish, “Anything for you, Marco!”
“These are not hecklers!” Rubio told the English-language press. “A positive heckler!”
Rubio warned his supporters that he’ll be gone for most of the next two months, ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
“Over the next few weeks, unless you go to the grocery story on Sunday, you’re going to see less of me,” he said, promising to be back in March before the Florida primary.
Then, he began, perhaps Republicans would elect a new winning candidate.
The riveted audience chanted his name.
Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez, Associated Press