U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio hits Las Vegas Wednesday to promote his new book, which argues the “American dream” is in jeopardy because of failed economic policies under President Barack Obama.
“Seven years of government-centered, tax-and-spend liberalism have failed to lift the poor or sustain the middle class,” Rubio, R-Fla., proclaims in the 211-page book, “American Dreams, Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.”
In an interview, Rubio said Monday he can work from the Senate to push policies that provide more opportunity and training for the U.S. work force, which he said has fallen behind other countries. But in the end, change needs to come from the White House, he added, as he considers jumping into the presidential race as soon as this spring.
“I think you can achieve a lot from the Senate, but I’m not sure you can lead the country into the 21st Century,” Rubio said via telephone as he prepared to get on a plane. “The president has to do that.”
Rubio’s book tour began in Iowa last Friday and will take him to New Hampshire, allowing appearances in the two states that vote first in the nation. In addition to visiting Las Vegas, he’ll also stop in South Carolina, the other two sanctioned early voting states.
The 43-year-old senator will sign books at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Barnes and Noble at 2191 North Rainbow Boulevard.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio’s first book, “An American son,” focused on his biography, which includes growing up in Las Vegas from third grade through eighth grade. Rubio said most of his extended family still lives in Southern Nevada, where his father worked as a bartender and his mother as a maid.
“I look forward to coming back,” Rubio said. “We have great affection for Nevada. We look forward to coming back many times.”
Nevada has become an important state in the White House sweepstakes since 2008, when it gained the right to hold the West’s first presidential caucus. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney dominated the Nevada caucuses, winning in 2008 and 2012. The 2016 contest is expected to be wide open.
“It’s not one of the traditional early states, but I think it’s increasingly important,” Rubio said, noting Nevada’s rapid growth until the recession hit.
The Hispanic population has rapidly grown, too, accounting for 27 percent of Nevada’s population of 2.8 million people. Rubio enjoys strong support among Hispanics, partly given his heritage. Some of that support may have waned in light of his failed effort on comprehensive immigration reform.
Rubio proposes a three-step approach to immigration reforms: first, halt illegal immigration and secure the borders; second, modernize the system so it’s based on merit instead of family ties; and third, do something about the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S.
“We’re not going to be able to do it in one massive piece of legislation,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s presidential hopes have been overshadowed of late by the potential candidacy of fellow Floridian Jeb Bush. Nonetheless, the senator said the former governor would make a good candidate and be very well funded. Bush has been on a fund-raising tear in recent weeks.
“We’re friends and I have great admiration for him,” Rubio said of Bush, adding that his own decision about whether to run for president won’t be affected by Bush. “You don’t make a decision based on what someone else is going to do.”
A recent poll showed that both Bush and Rubio are in the top tier of candidates in Nevada.
Rubio won 7 percent support of likely Nevada caucus voters, according to a survey conducted by TargetPoint Consulting and commissioned by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. The top pick was Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin at 18 percent, following by Bush at 12 percent. Physician Ben Carson tied with Rubio for third place, also receiving 7 percent support from voters who took part in the survey from Jan. 30 through Feb. 3.
The poll surveyed 400 likely Republican caucus voters, using live telephone operators who c alled land lines and mobiles.
Bush may be ahead of Rubio when it comes to the Sheldon Adelson primary, too. In the spring of 2014, Bush was the featured VIP speaker at a dinner gathering the Las Vegas Sands CEO Adelson held in Las Vegas, ahead of a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting. Rubio, however, has met Adelson, a top GOP campaign donor.
Both Bush and Rubio appear to be on Adelson’s side when it comes to opposing online gaming. As governor, Bush blocked attempts to expand gambling in Florida. He would likely support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act to outlaw Internet gambling.
Rubio, meanwhile, said he opposes online gaming in all forms, including poker, arguing he doesn’t want to give access to such activity to minors. It’s the same sort of argument Adelson makes in oppose online gaming.
“I’m not in favor of something that opens it to minors,” Rubio said, adding that gambling also targets the poor who can’t afford to lose, including at dog tracks, which he has opposed. “It can affect people who are struggling economically.”
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.