COLUMBIA — An energized Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made a quick stop in the state’s capital Wednesday before rushing to the airport to head back for Washington for a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Rubio took to the stage with South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott before about 400 supporters at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
Scott, who introduced Rubio along with Gowdy, promised that if the Republican Party nominates Rubio, he will be elected president.
The Florida senator did not address his disappointing fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, but he joked that he should’ve taken Scott to the Granite State with him after Scott energized the crowd with his introduction.
Rubio touched on familiar points, criticizing President Barack Obama’s policies, and calling for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. He also stressed the need to side with a nominee that can be elected president.
“We can’t lose this election, which means we need to nominate someone who can win,” Rubio said. “I am the conservative in this race that can win.”
Rubio added that it was important that a Republican win the 2016 election to prevent Democrats from appointing “three more liberals” as United States Supreme Court justices. He also discussed protecting Social Security and fixing the Veterans Affairs system to allow for veterans to be able to visit any doctor or hospital that they wish.
Rozanna Pfeiffer, who attended the event, said she has already decided Rubio is her candidate but wanted to bring her undecided 96-year-old mother, Lella, to see him. Pfeiffer, 64, said she believes that the country needs to sweep out of Capitol Hill some of the “older folks” and bring in new, young blood.
The Columbia resident added that what she liked most about Rubio is the story of how his family accomplished “the American Dream,” and how he hopes to extend that opportunity to the rest of the country.
“He’s so positive,” Pfeiffer said. “Not all of the candidates are positive. Even though he’s critical of things that need to be criticized, but he’s not negative.”
First-time voter Taylor Diveley, 18, said he finds himself leaning toward Rubio, but he has also attended the events of other candidates, including those of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
“I want to inform myself as much as possible with as many different candidates,” Diveley said. “I take it really seriously because I have a say now and that’s really exciting.”
He added that he wasn’t bothered by Rubio’s flub during the debate on Saturday, in which he repeated the same line numerous times, because it’s one of his main running points. Diveley thought Rubio did slip up, but that it didn’t make him a robot.
Rubio did not make himself available for questions after the event because he and Scott had to rush to the airport. He is expected to return to South Carolina on Friday to participate in the 2016 Faith and Family Forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville.
Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-708-5891.