Despite rumors he doesn’t want to be boxed in as “the Hispanic candidate,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and likely 2016 presidential candidate embraced his Hispanic background Wednesday morning, saying he can’t change who he is or where he comes from.
“I am who I am. My name is Marco Rubio and I don’t plan to change that,” he said at monthly breakfast hosted by POLITICO Playbook author Mike Allen at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
The potential presidential candidate was quick to note, however, that while he is proud of his heritage, “It doesn’t make me better than anyone else. It doesn’t make me more qualified than anyone else.”
Rubio said that, “It’s not that I don’t want to be the Hispanic candidate per se,” but he believes that the issues Hispanic Americans face are the same issues most Americans face.
His comments Wednesday morning echoed his words from a high-profile dinner he spoke at the night before.
“Some say that our problem is that the American people have changed, that too many people want things from government,” he said at the Jack Kemp Foundation awards dinner, at which he was being honored, in D.C. Tuesday evening. “But I am still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had: A chance, a real chance to earn a good living, and provide even better opportunities for their children.”
One of those issues that needs to be addressed for the sake of all Americans is illegal immigration, he said Wednesday. Rubio observed that illegal immigration needs to be dealt with comprehensively, but not in a comprehensive package or bill.
“If this country does not have a 21st century immigration system it cannot be what it is destined to be – the greatest country in the history of the world,” he said.
At the dinner, Rubio noted that if he hadn’t been afforded the opportunities he had growing up, including government financial aid for college, he wouldn’t be a United States Senator.
“I would probably have been a very opinionated bartender.”
Wednesday Rubio said he fears that other young Americans won’t have the opportunities he had. ”If I worry about anything, too many young Americans either aren’t dreaming or think those dreams are not accessible to them.”
When asked by POLITICO’s Allen if he say the changing demographics of America as a “danger,” Rubio said he’s call it a “challenge” instead. He added that a challenge is not a bad thing and that some times politicians have convince people why their view is the correct one rather than rely on existing support.
Rubio came to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan’s defense saying there was little they could have done to change the minds of liberal Hispanics, but he also noted that people often vote for the person, not the party.
With regards to his own presidential prospects, Rubio would not say if he planned to run for President in 2016.
“I have no idea. I just don’t know,” he said, adding that he could be the commissioner of the NFL after his tenure in Congress instead.
“I keep putting that out there in hopes someone will say, ‘Let’s interview that guy,’ ” he joked.