Sen. Rubio Says Limited Government Conservatism is Still the Answer

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., walks Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, left, before speaking at Branstad's annual birthday fundraiser, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, in Altoona, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Liz Blood

ALTOONA, Iowa - Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered soothing words to Iowa Republicans still smarting from a tough Nov. 6 election outcome Saturday night by assuring them that limited government conservatism is still the best hope for the nation’s economic and social future.

“We are ready to move on and move forward,” Rubio told about 700 people who turned out at Adventureland’s sold-out Palace Theater for Gov. Terry Branstad’s annual birthday bash fundraiser.

Rubio, the first potential 2016 presidential candidate to visit the state that kickoffs of the presidential selection process, said he has heard a lot of frustration from fellow Republicans ready to give up on the process after President Barack Obama turned back Mitt Romney’s challenge en route to a second term in the White House. But he said like-minded Americans should not give up on the message that free enterprise holds the key to creating the jobs and nurturing the environment for growth, not government.

“The way to turn the economy around is not by making the rich poorer, but it’s making poor people richer,” said Rubio, the keynote speaker at a birthday bash for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad that drew about 700 people to a sold-out Palace Theater. He said the problem facing the nation is the economy is growing fast enough to create middle-class jobs and many people lack the skilled to match some of the jobs that are available.

Rubio pointed to states like Iowa – with balanced budgets that spend less than revenue collected -- as the model that federal government should follow in working back from its financial cliff and massive debt that is thwarting growth and investment.

Branstad credited those principles with turning around Iowa’s budget deficit to its largest state surplus ever.

He agreed with Rubio that it’s time for Republicans to “turn the page and look to the future,” noting that Rubio is the kind of leader “that’s going to point us in the right direction.”

Rubio acknowledged the speculation that accompanies any national political figure who turns up in the leadoff caucus state by telling the crowd he was going to address “the elephant in the room” by declaring to loud laughter that “I am not now nor will I ever be a candidate for offensive coordinator at Iowa. I know there are rumors.”

Iowa Republicans said it is clear the 2016 race already is starting to take shape and Rubio is among the party’s rising stars to watch.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said her party has a bench that is young and diversified, which keeps her optimistic coming off a “very tough” election.

“I don’t think he was coming up here just because he was looking forward to the weather,” said GOP activist Doug Gross.

“Clearly it has already started,” he added. “I think you’re going to see people up here continuously on both sides, Democrats as well.”

Rubio has been active in crafting immigration reform and would “blunt” the lopsided turnout of Latino and minority voters who favored Obama earlier this month, said Steve Roberts, a former GOP national committeeman and state party chairman. He said that makes him an attractive presidential prospect, added “there clearly isn’t a frontrunner.”

“Presidential politics doesn’t end for the party that’s out of power and doesn’t have a clear heir apparent,” he said. “If it’s an open seat like 2016 is, they’re going to come in.”

Both Rubio and Branstad were upstaged by the governor’s four granddaughters who serenaded him with their version of “Happy Birthday.” Branstad, who told the crowd he was celebrating his second annual 65th birthday, hugged his granddaughters and told the crowd he is looking forward to the birth of his fifth granddaughter next month.

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