Rubio beats back VP rumors, hails immigration plan
April 19th, 2012
01:04 PM ET
2 years ago

Rubio beats back VP rumors, hails immigration plan

Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida put his foot down once again Thursday, firmly denying he would accept an offer from Mitt Romney to join the GOP ticket and floated another name for the spot instead.

"We got a lot of really talented people out there that Mitt Romney will get to pick from," Rubio said. "I think (Ohio) Sen. Rob Portman would be a phenomenal choice for vice president. That's where I would encourage him to look."

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The senator made his comments while attending an event on demographics at the Newseum in Washington. Asked by National Journal's Major Garrett in an interview on stage if he would definitively reject a vice presidential proposal this year, Rubio said "yes."

"You know that's not going to happen," he said. "The bottom line is I really want to do a good job in the Senate. I think the Senate is a very valid place to shape and drive American policy."

With a recent Pew Research Center poll showing President Barack Obama with a 40-point advantage over Romney among Hispanic voters, some political observers have noted choosing Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles and a popular senator in the Sunshine State, could help bring Latino voters into the GOP column this fall.

A high-ranking Latino, however, recently claimed Rubio, 40, did not have enough experience for the position. Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told CNN that Rubio might generate interest among Latinos "for the first 12 hours if selected for the number two spot, but that won't last.”

The junior senator and rising GOP star has repeatedly shot down the increasing speculation, saying he does not want the job and arguing Republicans have to do more to win the Latino vote than pick him as the party's vice presidential nominee.

"You can't just put somebody on there and say, 'This is gonna deliver it.' You've got to earn it, and primarily I think you earn it through economic policies," he said Friday in an interview with CNN en Español.

In an ironic slip-up on Thursday, however, Rubio clearly demonstrated all the recent veep-talk has taken root.

"Three, four, five, six, seven years from now, if I do a good job as vice president–" Rubio said, immediately pausing after realizing he misspoke.

"I'm sorry," he added, laughing at himself as the crowd roared. "If I do a good job seven years from now as senator, I'll have a chance to do all sorts of things."

Rubio also gave a glimpse Thursday of his upcoming immigration law, a piece of legislation many refer to as the Republican alternative for the Democratic-backed DREAM Act that proposes a path to citizenship for students who attend college or join the military.

While not going into specifics, Rubio said the plan would grant legal status–not citizenship–for those who want to study in the U.S. To gain citizenship, Rubio argued they must go through the system legally, but they can do so from the United States rather than go back home and apply from their respective countries.

"It doesn't create a special pathway to citizenship, but it doesn't prohibit a pathway," Rubio said.

Hitting back at criticism of his plan as creating a "permanent underclass," Rubio said it would provide a better opportunity than the current situation for illegal immigrants.

"There is no limbo. The limbo is what they have now," he said. "They would have a non-immigrant visa, which would legalize them in this country and allow them to get a driver's license and go to work and pay taxes."

While his plan would still require that individuals go through the legal application process, their main benefit under the law, he said, would be the chance to stay in the country while they wait "their turn to come up in the process."

The loophole counters what many Republicans, including Romney, have called for in the battle over immigration. On the campaign trail, the candidate consistently argued illegal immigrants should go home and "get in line" to come back to the U.S.

"I think we have to follow the law, and insist that those that have come here illegally ultimately return home, apply, get in line with everyone else," Romney said at a South Carolina Republican debate in January.

Rubio said he hoped the all-but-certain GOP nominee would get on board with his new bill, which he aims to finalize this summer. The senator said he has not had any personal discussions with Romney over the plan, but members of their respective staffs have been in contact.

"I think it's important. He's now the leader of the Republican Party, so I would hope that we could convince him to support a concept like this," he said Thursday.

Romney's campaign, meanwhile, has said the candidate is open to examining the plan.

"Gov. Romney will study and consider any proposals on immigration from his Republican partners," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "We must work together on protecting and strengthening legal immigration, securing our borders, ending illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner, and ensuring that any reforms do not encourage further illegal immigration."

Asked Thursday about the controversial immigration law in Arizona, Rubio said he understands why the state wanted to take action and supported their constitutional right as a state to enact their own law, but argued the law was not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Passed in 2010, the Arizona rule requires local police, during the enforcement of other laws, check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being undocumented.

"I do not believe laws like Arizona's should be a model for the country," he said. "I would much rather the federal government deal with illegal immigration issues."

Also see:

Ted Nugent to be interviewed by Secret Service

Romney to deliver Liberty University commencement speech

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Filed under: 2012 • 2012 VP Pick • Immigration • Marco Rubio • Mitt Romney
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Truth, no one was advocating sending Cuban exiles back, but its a little odd when they get on a fast-track to citizenship when people from other countries in Latin America were routinely denied the chance to enter this country when their country of origin was a brutal right-wing dictatorship like, say, Guatemala. No other immigrant group has ever had the favored status the Cubans have enjoyed: if they get to become citzens after only 12 months in this country, everyone should. The politics should be removed from the equation.

    April 19, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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