DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 18, 2015 –After losing ground in the presidential polls over the last month, U.S. Sen.Marco Rubio tried to reinvigorate his sagging Iowa campaign with stops at the Iowa State fair last night and again today.
"We love coming to this state,” Rubio said, as he described his evening of carnival rides, games and a concert attended by his wife and children at the fair. And he pledged to spend more time in the state, “especially as we get closer to the caucuses,” which are planned for Feb. 1.
“We think we have a message that appeals in every state of the union, quite frankly,” the junior senator from Florida added.
But his Iowa State Fair appearance on Tuesday was dampened by frequent downpours, making it difficult to meet with prospective supporters along the route as he quickly walked through the cattle barn, flipped pork burgers at the Iowa Pork Producers building and journeyed into the Iowa GOP booth for several photo opportunities.
Speaking to the press outside the cattle barn, Rubio was frequently asked about immigration reform – a subject he knows quite well from his negotiations on a package of reform measures by the so-called Senate Gang of Eight in 2013. That package passed the Senate, 68-32, but met insurmountable headwinds and died in the House of Representatives. Some Republicans have pointed to Rubio’s vote, and his role as a Gang of Eight member, to suggest that he is not conservative enough to win GOP support in the presidential race.
But Rubio is not backing down from his belief that the U.S. immigration system needs to be reformed, in part to compete with countries like Canada, which vie with the U.S. for talent. Yet he acknowledges that any type of reform “needs to be addressed in a series of fronts. We can’t do it all in one big piece of legislation.”
He also told reporters that he is “open” to doing something that could prevent people who come to the U.S. in order to take advantage of the 14th Amendment, which automatically grants citizenship to individuals born in the U.S. However, he is not in favor of repealing the provision.
That position puts him at odds with frontrunner Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who came out strongly in recent days against granting the so called “birthright” citizenship.
Asked about his vision for the future of farm and food policy, Rubio addressed three key issues that impact farmers in his home state of Florida as well as most other agricultural states: trade, burdensome regulations, and tax policy.
“First, we need to open up more markets to American growers, which is why I support free trade. I believe it allows us to sell our products to countries all over the world,” he said. “We now have hundreds of millions of people in the world that have joined the global middle class. They’ve become consumers and they are markets for our products.
“In Iowa, whether it’s pork or soybeans or corn, these are now markets that can open up for us. So that’s critically important.
“The other threat that agriculture faces is regulatory, and in particular, the Environmental Protection Agency, which continues to move forward on things like waters of the U.S. and other proposals that would be deeply harmful to the agricultural industry.”
Last, but not least, Rubio says, is his concern over tax policy.
“It’s not just how we treat small companies, like S corporations – that’s why I want to lower their tax burden - but also the estate tax, which in many instances costs families their ability to continue to operate in the agricultural field, once the owners pass away,” he said.
He reiterated some of those themes during his appearance on the Des Moines Register’s political soapbox later in the day, talking about a “New American Century,” which is the centerpiece of his campaign and one of the central reasons this young, photogenic candidate appears to be generating so much optimism about his presidential prospects.
“The world and the economy is changing,” Rubio emphasized. “Our policies must change with it. We are not just facing an economic downturn, we’re facing an economic transformation.”
To compete globally in the future, Rubio emphasized the need for higher education, including four-year colleges and participation in vocational training programs.
“We need people trained to be welders and airplane mechanics and machinists. These are good-paying jobs and somehow, we have stigmatized them as a country,” he said.
But with more rain looming and the audience huddled under umbrellas, Rubio cut short his appearance on the soapbox, speaking for a little over eight of the 20 minutes allotted to each candidate.
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