Rubio kicks off S.C. swing in Spartanburg

U.S. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to more than 500 supporters at the Marriott in Spartanburg on Wednesday.

SPARTANBURG — Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told supporters there is a campaign life for him in South Carolina during a stop coming just hours after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.

“There’s a future here for us and for this campaign, but more importantly in this country,” Rubio told more than 500 people crowded in a hotel ballroom Wednesday.

Rubio spoke heavily on the need for a strong national defense to prevent terrorism and to make America strong again on the international stage. He tied in the threat of ISIS with the need for stronger immigration policies that should be implemented before an overall reform.

“You know what’s good for America? Keeping ISIS out of America,” Rubio said. “If we don’t know who you are or why you’re coming, you are not getting into the United States.”

Before taking the stage with South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, Rubio told the press he’s responsible for his last poor debate performance, but is working to leave that in New Hampshire.

“I had 90 seconds in that debate that created distraction down the stretch and we couldn’t get to the message and it probably cost us a couple thousand votes of undecideds at the last moment,” Rubio said. “That was on me; it won’t happen again.”

Rubio said he wants to win South Carolina on Feb. 20, but didn’t say if his ground game will lead to similar showings like in other early states, such as a strong third-place finish in Iowa.

“I think it compares with what anybody else is here doing. We’ve had a ground game that’s been really good everywhere that’s why I felt so bad about New Hampshire they did great in Iowa and we’re going to do well here,” Rubio said. “We have a very strong team here and a lot of people on my campaign are from here too. We feel great, we’ve been building up to this moment.”

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Rubio flew in from New Hampshire, gave less than a 30 minute speech before shaking hands and smiling for photos then headed to another event in Columbia. Rubio is pressed for time Wednesday due to an upcoming vote in the Senate to impose sanctions on North Korea. The vote bumped him from a scheduled event in North Charleston, but Gowdy will still participate.

“This is the chance before us. We cannot let it us pass us by. South Carolina will be definitive and determinant,” Rubio said closing out his remarks to a standing ovation.

Reach Gavin Jackson at 843-708-1830.