In Iowa, Rubio proved he has the ability to be the establishment candidate. In New Hampshire, he proved how easily that title can be lost.
The endorsements Rubio has captured are significant, and he knows it. Endorsements from three South Carolinian politicians solidify his image as the establishment candidate, and the answer to the outsider status that Trump and Cruz still retain. He’s currently polling third, but, as we saw in Iowa, caucuses and primaries can be unpredictable. He may have the ability to pull into second or even first, but he can’t do it alone.
Cue Nikki Haley.
The morning after announcing her endorsement, beloved South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who boasts a 68% approval rating among Republicans, joined Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy at a rally to support Senator Marco Rubio in his quest to capture the Republican nomination. The four gathered at Swamp Rabbit Cross Fit Gym in Greenville to proclaim that South Carolina is, in fact, Rubio Country.
Capitalizing on his endorsement, Rubio kept Haley onstage throughout his entire stump speech. She would lead the crowd on when to clap and provided many photo-ops that are sure to grace the Senator’s campaign site through the primary. But her presence was not just for look’s sake. Rubio used the company of his fellow politicians to drive home his goal to unite the party, in a way that others, who “pit groups against each other for votes” cannot.
The candidate immediately brought out out the same “we need welders not philosophers” speech that became familiar during his stint in New Hampshire, while quipping that perhaps the “300 philosophers” that didn’t vote for him in the Granite State cost him the primary.
Moving into foreign policy, Rubio simplified global conflict by saying the world is more dangerous today than ever before. After joking about Kim Jong-Un’s privileged childhood and detailing the military growth he often espouses, he promised to cancel the Iran Deal on his first day in office in perhaps the most emphatic moment of his stump speech.
Rubio focused briefly on what he believes to be failures of the Obama administration, specifically Veterans Affairs and Social Security/Medicare. Relaying a story of calling the VA hotline and being sent to voicemail, he asked for all veterans to raise their hands, personally thanked them, and promised that he would fire any VA employee who was not “doing their job.”
The candidate made sure everyone knew that his mother was on Social Security and Medicare and that he would not make any changes that are bad for her. However, he emphasized, making changes for those 25 years away from retirement is not too much to ask.
Rubio ended on a positive note, wanting to leave the audience “with a sense of optimism.” After retelling the story of his immigrant father who achieved the American dream, he offered the same message in a broader sense. It is important to remember, he stressed, that this is a country where each generation builds on the last. From this, he reminded the audience of their call to action: vote for Rubio and make this the next great American generation.