Marco Rubio returns to South Carolina to talk to voters

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Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida gave what sounded a lot like a speech from a presidential candidate during a visit with South Carolina Republicans on Wednesday.

Rubio told reporters afterward that he hasn’t made any plans for re-election or a presidential run in 2016. But in his 20-minute speech in the state that will cast the first presidential primary ballots in the South, he only briefly mentioned the GOP’s candidates, spending most of his time outlining his conservative, populist vision to improve America.

Rubio called for more school choice and said college needs to be more affordable, citing student loan debt of $100,000 after he got his law degree. He also said Republicans need an alternative to the new health care law back by President Barack Obama instead of simply promising to overturn it.

Rubio also talked about his upbringing, recalling days sitting and listening to stories from his grandfather, who came to the United States several years after Rubio’s parents arrived in the country from Cuba. He said his grandfather instilled a love of the American dream that he wants to bring back.

“It didn’t matter that my dad was a bartender and my mother was a maid. I could have the same dreams and the same future as the son of a president or a billionaire,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s trip Wednesday marked his second appearance at a South Carolina fundraiser in less than two months. In his first visit, to Anderson in August, he was heckled for his stance on immigration while speaking at a barbecue sponsored by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan.

One of South Carolina’s U.S. senators, Tim Scott, joined Rubio at Wednesday’s luncheon, which raised money to help South Carolina Republicans get out the vote for the Nov. 4 elections. Scott is facing a weak Democratic challenger next month as he runs to fill out the last two years of Jim DeMint’s term.

Rubio will face a choice in 2016: He can either run again for the U.S. Senate or for president. He said he isn’t leaning either way.

“The real decision for me will be based on where is the best place to further the agenda I believe so strongly in,” Rubio said.

South Carolina’s other U.S. senator, Republican Lindsey Graham, isn’t so sure Rubio is presidential material. Graham told The Weekly Standard in an interview that Rubio was a good guy, but was too afraid of the right wing of the Republican Party. “After doing immigration with him – we don’t need another young guy not quite ready,” Graham said in the story.

Rubio said he respected Graham and thought nothing of his comments.

“It was just one of those things that go on in politics now and then,” Rubio said. “It is a non-factor for me.”

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.