Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took aim at “stale” politicians in a brief visit to Atlanta Monday as he works to make the most of a bump in poll numbers after his performance in last week’s Republican presidential debate.
The 44-year-old Republican warned a crowd of a few hundred supporters at a Buckhead hotel that “America is on the road to decline” because of a Washington establishment that is increasingly out-of-touch with the rank-and-file.
“If you keep electing the same people, we're going to get the exact same results. And I wish I could tell you that the people disconnected from your lives are all Democrats. And they are. But it's not just Democrats,” said Rubio. "There are even people in my party as well."
"Not because they're bad. Not because they don't love America. But it's because their ideas have grown stale. And quite frankly, many themselves have just lost touch with what it's like to owe student loans, what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck, how hard it is to survive in business today. Whatever it may be, we cannot get off this road to decline if keep electing the same people with the same tired ideas and the same disconnect in the way they approach government."
Rubio’s supporters have tried to reinforce that message in recent days. An introductory TV spot from the Conservative Solutions Project, the group pushing Rubio’s candidacy, took aim at fellow Floridian Jeb Bush.
“If ever there has been an era in human history tailor-made for us as a people, it is the 21st century,” the ad says. “What is standing in the way are outdated leaders that refuse to let go of the past.”
At Monday's speech, the Florida senator vowed to be the “vocational education president” who would expand student aid to 16- and 17-year-olds seeking careers in welding and other high-growth hands-on fields.
He earned the sharpest applause, though, when he outlined what he said would be a more muscular approach to foreign policy.
Rubio repeated his pledge to reverse the Iranian nuclear deal his first day in the White House, enthusiastically embrace Israel and check the ambitions of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who Rubio called a “thug” and a “gangster.”
It was Rubio’s foreign policy chops that helped the candidate net his biggest Georgia endorsement yet. Rep. Austin Scott said Rubio’s debate responses to questions about the spread of the Islamic State and other growing threats helped swing his decision.
“The one person that would make the best president for my children, and that means for your children as well, was Marco Rubio. His answers were dead on with regard to foreign policy and economic policy,” said Scott, R-Tifton. “I am looking forward to having a man of action at the White House."
As for the other contenders, Scott said, "a lot of them are just full of talk."