Marco Rubio faces a do-or-die contest Tuesday in Florida, and he sought strength in a rally Sunday afternoon in The Villages. He was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd at Rohan Recreation Center.
A heckler tried to upstage the candidate as the rally began. Shortly after Rubio took the stage, a man near the front row jumped up and started screaming that Rubio “tried to steal my girlfriend.” He was escorted out.
The incident failed to knock Rubio off message as he spoke on a stage full of veterans.
He didn’t shy away from the 900-pound gorilla in the Republican race, Donald Trump. Rubio said he understands the anger fueling Trumpmania.
“I have people in my family who are teachers, nurses and firefighters who are living paycheck to paycheck,” Rubio said. “I know people are frustrated. I know they are angry.”
He said they are angry because they see people gaming the system.
“We are now a nation of people who hate each other.” Rubio said. “This can’t continue. Do we really want to live in a country where people hate each other?”
He did not hesitate to point the finger of blame at Trump.
“We can’t have someone as president saying, go ahead and punch someone in the face and I’ll pay the legal bills. Words have consequences,” Rubio said.
He also blamed the political parties and the media for the current state of affairs. He said political parties have been bent on perpetual re-election and the media is covering politics like “entertainment.”
Rubio brought the crowd to its feet when he promised that on his first day in office he would repeal every one of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, which he declared to be unconstitutional.
He also pledged to save Social Security.
“My Social Security will not look the same as my parents,” the 45-year-old said. “It will be broke or reformed.”
He said there are two workers for every person on Social Security. He said that ignoring the problem won’t solve it.
“My 85-year-old mother can’t go out and get another job,” he said.
He suggested that boosting from 67 to 68 the retirement age of his generation, would be a step in the right direction.
Prior to Rubio’s introduction, George “Pat” Waters Patton, grandson of Gen. George S. Patton, brought out a pair of his grandfather’s boots. Waters suggested Rubio was the only presidential candidate who could fill those boots.
Linda Wiernasz of the Village of Dunedin was thrilled to get a seat at the rally even if it was all the way in the back.
“Rubio all the way,” she said.
She said cast her ballot for Rubio on Tuesday.
No matter the outcome Tuesday, it was a memorable event for 13-year-old Maddie Stults who was thrilled to see Rubio speak. It was her first-ever political rally. She attended with her mother, Louise, and 16-year-old brother Benjamin.
They live in Tallahassee but happen to be staying in the Whitney Villas for a few days with Brian and Jackie Stults, the children’s grandparents.
She was able to get up close to Rubio after the rally and score a photo of him on her phone.
“I will never forget this,” she said.