Ru­bio com­petes to unite GOP af­ter de­bate gains

Iowans tak­ing to hawk­ish ap­proach

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

DAVEN­PORT, IOWA | Sen. Marco Ru­bio is emerg­ing as the GOP can­di­date most likely to unite the var­i­ous wings of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary elec­torate, and that broad ap­peal was on dis­play when he made a cam­paign stop last week at a pop­u­lar sports bar and restau­rant.

Some of the 300 peo­ple crowded into the Jer­sey Grille to hear Mr. Ru­bio on the stump were look­ing for a fam­ily val­ues can­di­date, some wanted a stri­dent fis­cal con­ser­va­tive and yet oth­ers hoped for a get-tough mil­i­tary leader.

Mr. Ru­bio didn’t dis­ap­point any of them.

Much as he did in a sturdy de­bate per­for­mance the pre­vi­ous evening in Mil­wau­kee, the Florida Repub­li­can de­liv­ered a mes­sage that brought to­gether the party’s three pil­lars, pledg­ing rev­er­ence to fam­ily val­ues, vow­ing to cut taxes and say­ing the mil­i­tary needs an in­jec­tion of fund­ing to pre­serve its role as the most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary force in the world.

He be­moaned that with­out th­ese reme­dies the coun­try risked los­ing sight of the Amer­ica dream.

“You also feel it in our so­ci­ety, where a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple feel out of place in their own coun­try, be­cause those of us who hold tra­di­tional val­ues are stig­ma­tized as haters and big­ots,” he told the crowd. “The fam­ily, the most im­por­tant institution in so­ci­ety — with­out strong fam­i­lies, noth­ing else mat­ters — and the fam­ily is un­der duress.”

The di­ver­sity of the Repub­li­cans in the room was re­flected by their choices in pre­vi­ous cau­cuses, which ranged form Mitt Rom­ney to Newt Gin­grich to for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum, who won the Iowa cau­cus in 2012 but has strug­gled to gain trac­tion for his run this year.

“He’s fam­ily-ori­ented,” said Sarah Teel, 36, who cau­cused last time for Mr. San­to­rum, an out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate for faith and fam­ily.

She said she was lean­ing to­ward sup­port­ing Mr. Ru­bio when the state hold’s the coun­try’s first nom­i­nat­ing con­test Feb. 1., though she is still look­ing at Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a strong con­ser­va­tive who is in­creas­ingly woo­ing evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers.

Af­ter the speech, Ben Van Raalte, 58, a physi­cian from nearby Bet­ten­dorf, said he planned to cau­cus for Mr. Ru­bio be­cause he was go­ing to tackle the fed­eral debt with re­forms to So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care, in­clud­ing rais­ing the re­tire­ment age and means-test­ing ben­e­fits.

“I’m glad he didn’t get hung up on the so­cial is­sues,” he said. “I like that he spoke more in ideas than in sound bites. We’ve got too many run­ning on sound bites.”

Mag­gie Brown, 56, a con­tract­ing spe­cial­ist for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, called Mr. Ru­bio a “prin­ci­pled con­ser­va­tive.”

“I like that,” she said. “I’m all for mil­i­tary spend­ing. That’s the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s job.”

Mr. Ru­bio’s abil­ity to unite the Repub­li­can Party’s core con­stituen­cies has helped place him firmly in the top tier of can­di­dates in a crowded field. Cur­rently, Mr. Ru­bio and Mr. Cruz are best po­si­tioned to burst into the lead should front-run­ners Don­ald Trump and Ben Car­son fal­ter.

In re­cent polls Mr. Ru­bio has been vy­ing for third place with Mr. Cruz, with the two trail­ing about 10 points be­hind Mr. Trump and Mr. Car­son.

GOP ri­vals have at­tempted to drive a wedge be­tween Mr. Ru­bio and the party’s con­ser­va­tive base by de­nounc­ing his poli­cies, es­pe­cially his pro­pos­als to in­crease spend­ing, as “not con­ser­va­tive.”

At the de­bate in Mil­wau­kee, Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky lev­eled the charge and pointed to Mr. Ru­bio’s pro­posal to boost mil­i­tary spend­ing and ex­pand the earned­in­come tax credit for low-in­come fam­i­lies, which is es­ti­mated to cost $1 tril­lion over 10 years.

“Add that to Marco’s plan for $1 tril­lion in new mil­i­tary spend­ing and you get some­thing that looks to me not very con­ser­va­tive,” said Mr. Paul, whose po­lit­i­cal views skew lib­er­tar­ian.

Mr. Ru­bio de­fended the tax credit as an in­vest­ment in fam­i­lies.

“If you in­vest that money in a piece of equip­ment, if you in­vest that money in a busi­ness, you get to write it off your taxes, but if you in­vest it in your chil­dren, in the fu­ture of Amer­ica and strength­en­ing your fam­ily, we are not go­ing to rec­og­nize that in our tax code,” he said.

“Nev­er­the­less, it is not very con­ser­va­tive, Marco,” re­sponded Mr. Paul.

Mr. Ru­bio then stressed the need to re­build the mil­i­tary. “I know that Rand is a com­mit­ted iso­la­tion­ist; I am not,” he said.

The ex­change scored points for both can­di­dates with their supporters. Paul cam­paign of­fi­cials said they saw an im­me­di­ate uptick in on­line con­tri­bu­tions, likely flow­ing from bud­get hawks and the anti-war crowd.

For Mr. Ru­bio, the per­for­mance res­onated with fam­ily val­ues and pro-mil­i­tary vot­ers.

At the sports bar Mr. Ru­bio’s fans were not hung up on the cost of the pro­posed child tax credit.

“He’s con­ser­va­tive enough,” said Bill Doeckel, 79, who backed Mitt Rom­ney in 2012.

“You got to shake them down. They’ve all got pluses and mi­nuses,” he said. “I agree with Ru­bio most.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sen. Marco Ru­bio de­liv­ered a mes­sage to a crowd in Daven­port, Iowa, that pledged rev­er­ence to fam­ily val­ues, a vow to cut taxes and say­ing that the U.S. mil­i­tary needs an in­jec­tion of fund­ing to pre­serve its role in the world.

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