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UPPER MERION — Though some Republicans felt that it wasn’t time for Marco Rubio to run for president, the Florida senator felt otherwise.
“When I decided to run for president … some of the same people who were against me four years ago reappeared and said to me, ‘You have to wait in line. It’s not your turn,’” he said Thursday night. “I didn’t know there was a line.”
Instead, the Cuban-American threw his hat into the ring and is one of numerous Republican candidates running for president in 2016.
Rubio made a stop along the campaign trail at the Republican Committee of Chester County’s 2015 Fall Reception at the Crowne Plaza in King of Prussia Thursday night.
“I had met (Rubio) in May at an event we had in Center City,” said Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the committee. “I told him about Chester County and that he had to come. Our National Committeeman Bob Asher got on board and he made it happen.”
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Due to Rubio’s presence, the fall reception, which usually draws 300 to 400 people, doubled Thursday night.
In preparation for Rubio’s appearance, three fundraisers were held to support his campaign.
“We did a little fundraiser for him here before this event,” DiGiorgio said. “We raised a total of about $550,000 at three events today including the event we had here.”
Rubio spoke in front of a standing-room only crowd filled with Republican representatives from the local and national level, including Chester County DA Tom Hogan, state Rep. Steve Barrar, County Commissioner Terence Farrell, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan and U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello.
“This is the state where, thanks to your hard work not just in this county, but in so many others, in 2016 for the first time in a long time, a Republican is going to win this state for president,” Rubio said in his speech.
Rubio touched on his background, speaking of how he didn’t come from a wealthy background, something which is acceptable in this country.
“What makes (the United States) special is that in this country, millions of people that will never be rich still achieve happiness,” he said. “They find jobs that pay enough so they can buy a home, so they can retire in dignity, so they leave their children better off for themselves.
“My parents weren’t born in the United States — they were born on the island of Cuba to families that were not rich and famous. My parents came here in 1956 because it was the one place on Earth people like them had a chance to get ahead if they worked hard and persevered. In America, my parents never became rich or famous either, but they were extremely successful.”
However, Rubio pointed out, people are no longer finding the ability to succeed and persevere, leading this country down a different path.
“We should be deeply concerned that today, millions and billions of Americans, including many of you in this room tonight, are starting to doubt whether we are still a country where that is possible,” he said. “Young people are told their whole lives to go to school and get a degree and you’re guaranteed a better life and so they did. Many even borrowed money to pay for that degree and now they owe thousands of dollars in student loans and they cannot find a job.”
In his half-hour speech, Rubio highlighted each of his concerns and the major points in his campaign.
The 44 year old touched on the declining economy, social security, Medicare and education.
“We must completely transform what we mean by higher education,” Rubio said. “It begins with this: I do not understand, for the life of me, why we stopped training people in this country to work with their hands in a trade or a craft … We made the mistake in some point in our history of telling young Americans those jobs are for the kids who aren’t smart enough to go to college. It’s a lie.”
Rubio also spoke on foreign policy, American free enterprise, natural resources, reforming the VA and the military.
“Today, the federal government is failing at (protecting the citizens),” he said. “It is failing to protect us at home and it is failing to protect our borders. Abroad, it is failing to protect us from foreign threats in a world that is as dangerous as it has ever been in my lifetime … When I am president, God willing, we will rebuild our military and there will be no doubt in the minds of anyone on this planet what the most powerful fighting force in the world is.”
Rubio excited the crowded ballroom, getting a resounding round of applause over 25 times, especially when he said that he hopes to be the Republican nominee for president.
“His speech was great,” DiGiorgio said. “He hit all the right points and all the right notes. He’s very polished, very poised and charismatic and he has the right message. He can bring that conservative message into new communities and especially reach out to millennials and Latinos.”
Rubio left a theme that resonated with the hundreds of people in attendance well after the presidential candidate left to head for Pittsburgh.
“There are only two ways forward for America: Our children will either be the free-ist or the most prosperous Americans that have ever lived or our children will be the first Americans ever that inherit from their parents a country worst off than the one that was left for them,” he said. “These are the only two choices before us.
“I point them out so I can show you we can solve every one of them. There is nothing before this country we cannot fix. There is nothing before this country that we do not have within us to face. The question now is will we do it or not?”