Big endorsements seized, Rubio looks to close the deal in South - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Big endorsements seized, Rubio looks to close the deal in South Carolina

Marco Rubio (Source: WIS) Marco Rubio (Source: WIS)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

In the final days before the South Carolina Republican primary, presidential candidate Marco Rubio campaigned with extra power thanks to the endorsement of popular governor Nikki Haley and promised a continued emphasis on the issues. "We just keep running a serious campaign," Rubio said in an interview with WIS News 10 on his campaign bus. "The people in South Carolina know what's at stake here."

Polls taken shortly after Governor Haley announced her support for Rubio show an uptick in support for the Florida Senator. Following her endorsement, Haley joined Rubio at campaign events in the Palmetto State, along with prominent Rubio supporters Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy.

"South Carolina will continue to have a narrowing effect on this race," Rubio predicted. "I suspect that, after [the primary on] Saturday, there may be a candidate or two no longer in the race, depending upon how they perform and, the narrower this race becomes, the clearer the choice will become for voters down the road. So, South Carolina has always played a critical role."

Rubio declared he has no plans for changing his message after his widely criticized exchange with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the February 7th debate in which Christie (who has since dropped out of the race himself) lambasted Rubio for repeating his talking points. "Usually in politics, you get attacked for saying two different things to two different people. In my sense, I guess, I'm being attacked for being consistent about my message. It will remain my message," he insisted. "Everybody running for office should repeat what they stand for because, if I go before A Town hall meeting here in South Carolina, that may be the only time they hear from me. Reporters may hear me say it 50 times. But the voters may only get to hear me say it once, because they've only been to one town hall." 

The candidate continued to push back against accusations, particularly from Republican opponent Ted Cruz, that Rubio supports amnesty for foreigners in the United States illegally, as well as against Donald Trump's demands for mass deportations and a wall on the Mexican border. "Donald doesn't have a serious plan to deal with the issue," Rubio countered. "He talks about building a wall, which I agree with. Mexico is not going to pay for it. We're going to have to pay for it in this country because it's works securing our own country. But he doesn't have a realistic position on it. 'Realistically' begins with bringing our border under control, in essence, proving to the American people that are border is under control... After we've done that, then we'll see what the American people are willing to support."

As for amnesty, Rubio rejected the notion that his support for the Gang of Eight immigration compromise, which would have provided foreigners in the country illegally with a path to legal status without a requirement that they leave, constitutes "amnesty." "Amnesty" is the forgiveness of all wrongdoing without any consequence," he said. "I don't support amnesty. I believe if you've violated our immigration laws, there should be a significant consequences... If you're somebody who's been here 10 years and can pass a background check and learns English, and pays a fine and start paying taxes, and all you want is a work permit, we'll see what the American people will support. You're not going to round up and deport 12 million people."
With the immigration issue hovering over the campaign, Rubio insisted his campaign, and Republicans, have a strong case to make to minorities who make up a strong, and overwhelmingly Democratic, constituency in South Carolina.

"For us it's about economic empowerment," he explained. "I support free enterprise, because it's the only economic model in the world where you can make for people richer, without making which people poor. And so we need to take that message to communities who in the past haven't voted for us. Communities that have been told by Democrats for a long time that Republicans don't care about people like them. Well, I am people like them. I come from that background. I grew up paycheck to paycheck. My parents were immigrants, and minorities, as I have been too. And yet we have prospered, and benefited, from the American miracle."

With the primary inching closer, Rubio also appealed to conservative voters, and evangelicals, a major constituency for Republicans and one for whom competition has been intense between Rubio, Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. "I am as conservative as anyone in this race," Rubio declared "but I am the conservative that can unite the Republican Party, grow the Republican Party, and win this election. We cannot afford to lose this election because that means President Bernie Sanders, or President Hillary Clinton. I give us the best chance to win. And we win without having to even compromise our principles. So that's why I'm asking you for your vote.

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