Presidential races

Rubio launches White House bid: Time for ‘our generation to lead’

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Monday entered the race for the White House, pitching himself as a next-generation candidate prepared to lead the U.S. into a “new American century.”

Surrounded by family and supporters at a packed ballroom inside the Freedom Tower in Miami, Rubio skipped any glitzy introductions or presentations and instead directly hit the stage for a fiery speech. 

“We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future,” Rubio said. “Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”

{mosads}Rubio took a direct swipe at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who announced her candidacy on Sunday. 

“Yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday,” Rubio said of the Democrat. “Yesterday is over and we’re never going back.”

He also took an implied swipe at his onetime political mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is expected to join the race shortly. Many believed that Rubio would sit the race out if Bush were to get in it, but Rubio said Monday the calling for him was too strong to stay on the sidelines.

“I’ve heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn, but I cannot,” Rubio said. “I believe our very identity as a nation is at stake and I can make a difference as president.”

“The time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American century,” the 43 year-old senator continued. 

The son of Cuban immigrants put forth a message centered on reigniting the American dream for those he said have been left behind by the political establishment. He held himself up as an example of what that dream looks like, telling the story of his parents who arrived in the U.S. in the 1950s with no prospects and little money. 

“In many countries, the highest office in the land is reserved for the rich and powerful,” Rubio said Monday. “But I live in an exceptional country where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who come from power and privilege.”

“Too many Americans are starting to doubt whether achieving that dream is still possible,” he added. 

The Florida Republican touched on a bevy of policy items he intends to focus on in the campaign, saying the nation could return to prosperity by reforming the tax code, reducing regulations, controlling spending, modernizing immigration laws and repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

He also heavily emphasized foreign policy, which many Republicans believe will be a strength for his candidacy. Rubio said the U.S. must abandon the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, renew its commitment to Israel and beef up the military. 

“If America accepts the mantle of global leadership … then our nation will be safer, the world more stable, and our people more prosperous,” Rubio said.

The sneator made the announcement against a backdrop of outside events that Republicans believe could bolster his campaign launch.

Republicans believe that, rather than overshadowing Rubio’s Monday announcement, Clinton’s closely timed campaign launch sets up a beneficial and stark contrast between the two candidates.

“One comes from a political dynasty and one brings fresh blood,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean.

Republicans have sought to frame the 67-year-old Clinton as a candidate from the past. Many in the GOP view the much younger Rubio as a fresh face for the party who brings multi-ethnic appeal at a time when the GOP is seeking to attract minority voters. 

The site of Rubio’s announcement, at the Freedom Tower in Miami, has also taken on added significance in recent days. The building served as a clearinghouse for thousands of Cuban exiles seeking a new life in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Over the weekend, President Obama held a landmark meeting with Cuban leader Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, in an effort to improve relations with the communist country after decades of tension.

But Rubio has been among the most vocal critics of the move to normalize relations. 

“It puts a fine point not just on his personal story, but also on his view that America must have a muscular foreign policy,” said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak. 

Rubio’s had a meteoric political rise that has garnered comparisons to Barack Obama. The 43-year-old, who was Speaker of the Florida House just six years ago, shot onto the scene in 2010 on the strength of the Tea Party wave.

Still, he faces considerable challenges in his quest for the GOP nomination.

Rubio is entering an increasingly crowded field that already includes two of his colleagues: Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.). A host of other candidates are waiting in the wings, led by Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Some political watchers believe that Bush will need to stumble badly if Rubio is to have a shot at the nomination, and Rubio is currently polling outside the top tier of Republican hopefuls.

The former Florida governor has been pulling in top-level political talent and big-money donors, and has a legion of loyal backers from his deep political ties that extend far beyond his and Rubio’s shared home state of Florida.

In order to win the nomination, Rubio will have to reassure conservatives who were turned off by his involvement in the Senate’s failed immigration reform effort in 2013. He has tried to make amends for his role crafting that bill, telling activists in February that he’s “learned” from the experience that securing the border must come first.

Still, Rubio has considerable buzz in some conservative circles. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently gave him strong odds of winning the GOP primary, calling Rubio the “underestimated dark horse candidate.”

“He has youthful energy and fresh ideas on his side, so that’s something he’s going to be able to build on,” said Bonjean.

The stakes are high — Rubio could end the cycle without a political office. He’s up for reelection to the Senate next year, and he has said he won’t run for president and his current job simultaneously.

Much like Obama in 2008, Rubio appears willing to gamble his political future on the notion that his party will be looking for a fresh face.

—This post was updated at 7:08 p.m. 

Tags Barack Obama Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Rand Paul Ted Cruz
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