Marco Rubio touches on student debt, unification of GOP party at Las Vegas rally

Erik Petrovich

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Photos by Sady Swanson

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LAS VEGAS – Coming off a close second-place finish in the South Carolina primaries, Sen. Marco Rubio made his first stop in Nevada Sunday to speak to his supporters within the state.

After an unexpected appearance from Band of Brothers actor Donnie Wahlberg, among other special guests including Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Pawn Stars host Rick Harrison, Rubio touched on issues close to Nevada Republicans in a rally at the Texas Station Gambling House and Hotel Sunday.

Rubio spoke for more than half an hour at the rally, which one campaign staffer said was attended by slightly more than 1,500 people.

 

“These people have come to believe that conservatives and Republicans don’t care about them,” Rubio said, on those facing financial hardship. “I lived paycheck to paycheck. That’s when you write a check on Wednesday, you aren’t going to get paid on Friday, so you date it Saturday.”

Rubio said he learned what the American dream was in Las Vegas, a city where he spent many of his formative years, and appealed to states’ rights supporters by calling for a return of federal lands to Nevada.

“Nowhere in the constitution does it say ‘the federal government should own 83 percent of the state of Nevada,’” Rubio said, on limited government.

The senator also touched on student debt, saying that the only way he was able to pay his student loans off was with his autobiography, “An American Son: A Memoir.”

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He did not hesitate to call out his Democratic challengers for the presidency, however — he said he would rather live under a self-described socialist, referring to Sen. Bernie Sanders, than under someone being investigated by the FBI, referring to Sec. Hillary Clinton.

“She thinks she’s above the law,” Rubio said, talking about Clinton. “I think her plan was she was gonna get elected, and then pardon herself. But she’s not gonna get elected.”

Rubio said he would not shut down Guantanamo Bay if elected, going as far as to say that when it comes to terrorists, “In Guantanamo, we’re going to find out everything they know.”

The Florida senator is currently polling four points behind Sen. Ted Cruz, his main competitor for the Republican establishment vote, and 20 points behind Donald Trump, who won South Carolina by with 32.2 percent of the vote, according to Real Clear Politics.

Rubio will hold three rallies across the Silver State Monday before the Nevada Republican caucuses Tuesday.

 “2016 is no ordinary election,” Rubio said. “2016 is a turning point in the history of the greatest nation on earth. We have two options — to become a great nation and thrive or a great nation in decline.”

 

Collegian Assistant News Editor Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @EAPetrovich.