U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday told Nevada Republicans they must work hard to put Mitt Romney in the White House and return U.S. Sen. Dean Heller to the Senate so the GOP can revive the economy and restore confidence in the United States as a great and prosperous nation.
“We should be doing much better than this,” Rubio said, speaking to about 500 supporters at the Green Valley Resort and Spa in Henderson.
The Florida senator remarked that President Barack Obama was staying nearby, practicing for his first debate today with Romney. He criticized the president for saying during the recession that people should not come to Las Vegas “and leave their money.”
“That’s OK. We’re just five weeks away from getting rid of him,” Rubio said, prompting a burst of cheers and flurry of pom-pom waving from the largely conservative crowd. “We can’t afford four more years. Guys, we can’t afford four more months. We can’t afford four more weeks of this.”
Rubio urged Republicans to make a big push to get friends and neighbors to the polls on Nov. 6 to overcome Obama and the Democratic Party operation in the battleground state. He said the country’s economic future is at stake, with the nation’s debt a record $16 trillion and growing.
Obama “doesn’t understand the free enterprise system,” Rubio said, arguing government is too big and is hurting small business and job growth with too many regulations and taxes.
He also slammed Vice President Joe Biden for saying Tuesday that the middle class “has been buried in the last four years.” Biden was arguing against raising taxes.
“He said the middle class has been suffering over the last four years,” Rubio said as the crowd booed at the mere mention of Biden’s name. “We say, ‘You should know.’
“They tell people big government is good for the workers, for the entrepreneur, for the little guy,” Rubio said of Obama and Democrats. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
A conservative, Rubio warned that if Democrats remain in charge the country will revert to colonial times, when government controlled every aspect of people’s lives and livelihoods.
“People come to this country to get away from that stuff,” he said. “When’s the last time you read about a boatload of refugees arriving on the shores of another country?”
“We need to stand up and say things aren’t going to be the same. They’re going to be better,” Rubio said, ending his 35-minute speech and making a final pitch to put Romney in charge.
Rubio also urged Republicans to work to elect Danny Tarkanian, who’s running for the new 4th Congressional District, and to re-elect U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in the 3rd Congressional District.
Both men spoke at the rally, presenting a unified Republican front in Southern Nevada. Tarkanian is running against Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. Heck is being challenged by Nevada Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.
Rubio’s pitch for Heller drew the most applause from the crowd, many of whom opposed U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election in 2010. Reid is the Democratic leader of the Senate and could lose control if Heller keeps the GOP seat in Nevada and Democrats don’t retain or win enough other seats across the country.
“I can’t wait to have a new majority leader of the United States Senate,” Rubio said to cheers.
Rubio’s speech was interrupted several times by shouts of support, including one man who yelled, “Rubio 2020,” a reference to a potential future presidential run by the popular Hispanic leader.
The Romney campaign sent Rubio to Southern Nevada, where he spent part of his childhood, to energize Republicans and the Latino community in the final weeks of the close White House race.
Although Rubio focused on the economy in his speech, he met privately before the rally with 25 Latino community leaders and business operators in a bid to boost Hispanic support for Romney.
A new poll by Latino Decisions released Tuesday showed Romney making small gains among Hispanic voters in 10 battleground states, including Nevada. The survey showed Obama leading Romney 61 percent to 33 percent among Latinos in the battleground states. Nationwide, Obama was leading Romney among Latinos 73-21, which is better than any past president.
Obama bolstered his support with the Latino community when earlier this year he announced undocumented young immigrants would be allowed to stay under a temporary program in the U.S. without fear of deportation. In exchange, youths would have to attend college or join the military, although the program stops short of offering a path to citizenship.
Obama said he acted because Republicans block passage of the DREAM Act, which would give young illegal immigrants a chance to become Americans after growing up here.
Rubio has been working on a GOP DREAM Act proposal, but has not introduced legislation yet.
Hispanics are a key voting bloc in the West, including the first-debate state of Colorado and also Nevada, where Latinos make up 26 percent of the population and about 15 percent of the electorate.
Ahead of the debate, Romney reached out to those young immigrants. He said in an interview with the Denver Post that those who get two-year work permits under the Obama program would not be deported if he wins the White House. And Romney said he would work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, something that Obama has failed to do as promised in his first four years.
“The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid,” Romney said in the interview published Tuesday. “I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased. Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”
Contact reporter Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.