Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio’s visit to the Twin Cities Tuesday wasn’t a lengthy one, but it was long enough to establish that he is the choice of many of the state’s mainstream Republicans.
Former Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum and former Minority Leader Marty Seifert are part of Rubio’s leadership team. Charlie Weaver, head of the Minnesota Business Partnership, is also a supporter. They join Rubio’s Minnesota chair, Jeff Johnson, who has always stressed Rubio’s electability.
Rubio spoke for himself at an event Tuesday morning in Minneapolis, where he combined a fundraiser with a brief media availability, stressing his unifying credentials.
“The bottom line is: I remain in this race the only candidate that can achieve two things,” he said. “Unite the Republican Party and attract new people to our cause.”
In the first few of the Republican debates, Rubio appeared to struggle communicating his positive messages against the doomsday scenarios outlined by fellow candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Rubio has since taken a tougher stance on issues like immigration and taxes and sharpened his rhetoric, a tactic that was on display Tuesday. “The road we are on right now is the road of decline,” he said. “Our prestige on this planet has also been diminished.”
But Rubio did not hold on to that theme for long, turning to topics that evoked more compassion than passion.
“We are going to win young voters because we are speaking on behalf of them,” he said, referring to his concerns about college debt. “That’s why I spend so much time talking about single mothers. When I’m our nominee they will hear from us. They will hear about us and they will hear what we are fighting for.”
It’s personal, he said, because he has shared these struggles. “What you’re trying to achieve is happiness, which for them means being able to own a home and raise a family and retire with dignity.”
Sviggum believes that’s the message that will convince a majority of American voters in November. “I think that Marco brings that nice balance that is very electable in this country,” he said. “I think that he has an empathy and a sympathy that comes across for voters, especially young voters in this country.”
Rubio didn’t reach out to too many Minnesota voters — young or otherwise — on Tuesday; there were no public events on his schedule, and he soon left Minneapolis for fundraisers in Missouri, Chicago, and Boston before heading to New Hampshire to campaign.
But Rubio’s staff said that he is likely to return to Minnesota before March 1 for more direct contact with a critical group of voters: those who attend the state’s precinct caucuses to vote in the binding presidential preference poll.