Interview with Florida Senate Candidate Marco Rubio

Interview with Florida Senate Candidate Marco Rubio

By The Situation Room - July 20, 2010

BLITZER: Oil from the Gulf disaster is not just impacting Florida's beaches. It is now also colliding with the state's closely watched U.S. Senate race.

And joining us now, Marco Rubio. He is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida, the former House speaker in Florida. Thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Do you think it is a good idea, what Charlie Crist, the governor, wants -- and he's your rival -- to get a constitutional amendment that once and for all would ban all offshore drilling off the coast of Florida?

RUBIO: Well, let me first say what would be a good idea is to actually have a real special session where they deal with the economic issues that the region is facing.

Offshore drilling is already illegal in Florida already. It's not legal now. You can't do it. The law prohibits it.

BLITZER: But they could change it. If you have a constitutional amendment, that would bar it once and for all.

RUBIO: And they can do that in a regular session.

I think the problem is, the legislature was called in, in an extraordinary special session to waste taxpayer dollar to come up and consider something that there is no imminent threat for. What the special session should have been about and what he did not expand the call to make it about was economic relief for Northwest Florida.

Luckily, the legislative leaders, the Senate president, the speaker of the house, have said they are going to call the legislature back in September to consider real relief, like the economic policy changes they need to make.

BLITZER: The last time we spoke, you left open the door to offshore drilling somewhat. Have you refined your position?

RUBIO: No, I believe America has to have an energy policy that includes domestic production. And that includes the Gulf region. That includes drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And of course it has to be done safely.

And that's why it's so important to learn why this accident happened, so something like this never, ever happens again. But 10 percent of our domestic production comes from the Gulf. if we were to stop that, it would be like imposing an oil embargo on ourselves.

BLITZER: Because it is a pretty unpopular position in Florida to have offshore drilling.

RUBIO: You know, I don't know that that is true, Wolf.

I think most Floridians are mature enough politically to understand that this was a terrible accident. It happened because BP cut corners and as a result led to this. But, on the other hand, America has to have an energy component of its -- has to have a domestic energy component as part of our portfolio. We can't keep depending on other countries to provide oil for us. It makes us vulnerable.

BLITZER: So to have deepwater or shallow-water drills not far off of the coast of West Palm Beach or...

RUBIO: Well, that is prohibited by law right now. Florida law prohibits drilling off Florida waters. We are talking about federal waters.


BLITZER: So, but you are saying that you could see that happening some time down the road?

RUBIO: Florida waters?


RUBIO: Well, Florida waters -- actually, drilling in Florida waters is something Charlie Crist supported about four or five months ago.

I think now that this has happened, you are never going to see that any time in the near future. Obviously, there is a cost-benefit analysis there. A mature decision would have to be made. I don't think anyone is advocating that we allow that to happen right now.

BLITZER: So, you are not in favor of that.

All right, let's talk a little bit about the most recent poll that we have that has Crist at 35 percent, you at 28 percent, Kendrick Meek at 17 percent. And he is the likely, but not necessarily the certain, Democratic candidate.

Why do you think Charlie Crist has now come up as rapidly as he has, because, as an independent candidate, a lot of people were earlier writing him off?

RUBIO: Well, those numbers are not dissimilar to what we saw initially after he switched.

And the truth is, when I got in this race a year ago, right around this time, I was 35 points down in the Republican primary. So, I have been here before and I know what it takes to overcome that.

That being said, these polls now on American politics, there's one every day. Everyone is doing one. What we are focused on is laying out the things we believe in. And here is what I know. Come November, in Florida, there's going to be a very clear choice.

If you like the way things are going here in Washington, then you have two people you can vote for. That is not me. If, on the other hand, you want to send someone up here that will act as a check and balance on the direction that this Congress and this administration is taking our country, I'm the only choice on the ballot. I can do that.

BLITZER: You don't think that Charlie Crist as an independent would - would have that check and balance?

RUBIO: Well, I don't believe he's really an independent. I think there's an increasing evidence that he now is embracing the Obama agenda. Today, we read in the Wall Street Journal that he now supports Obama care, and he has flipped on Sotomayor, now he says he would have voted for her. We don't know where he stands on Elena Kagan, but I think he's going to support her unless -

BLITZER: So you think if he won as an independent, he would caucus with the Democrats?

RUBIO: I think it's increasingly - he, I think, has almost admitted that at this point, said he has two phone conversations with Harry Reid recently to talk about, you know, his future in the U.S. Senate.

So, you know, obviously, those are questions he's going to have to answer, but I think all indications are, and I believe that he will caucus with the Democrats in Washington and be a part of promoting the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda.

BLITZER: You - you were the darling of the Tea Party in Florida when you were running for the Republican nomination. Did you embrace that now or you sort of moving away from that as you're reaching out to more Moderates, Centrists, Democrats?

RUBIO: You know, Wolf, that's - the people you find in Tea Parties are everyday Americans from all walks of life. These labels of making people sound like extremists, that's what people do when they don't want to debate the issues the ideas.

What people at Tea Parties largely stand for is the idea that it's government job to foster an environment where the economy can grow, or the private sector can grow. They don't believe the government can grow the private sector and they're right. They believe that American that that is dangerous that we shouldn't be spending more money than we take in and something needs to be done about in a serious way -

BLITZER: And when the NAACP says elements in the Tea Party are racist, and Mark Williams, the former spokesman for Tea Party Express sort of is pushed aside, what goes through your mind?

RUBIO: Well, I think it's unfortunate that labels like that are used to brand an entire group of people, the vast majority of homer folks that just care and love their country, believe it's the greatest nation on earth, and they want to see policies implemented at the highest levels of government that will keep us exceptional.

I certainly haven't confronted or seen that in my experience and the events that I've attended. What I run into are everyday Americans from all walks of life, from all parties (INAUDIBLE) -

BLITZER: But you've seen that - those hateful - hateful signs against President Obama that sometimes spring up at some of these events. RUBIO: Well, let me tell you, hate speeches are all involved all throughout politics. I saw hateful signs against George Bush. I saw George Bush jeered at Obama's inauguration and of a total lack of taste. I wouldn't - I'm not going to attribute that to every supporter of Barack Obama.

I think what we need to focus back is on the policies. What are the policies that candidates support? And are those policies good for America?

BLITZER: If you were elected, would you be part of the Tea Party caucus in the United States Senate? Let's say with Rand Paul, he's a Republican candidate in Kentucky or Sharron Angle, a Republican candidate in Nevada, would you be part of the caucus like that?

RUBIO: Well, I don't know what the need for that would be obviously. Maybe they - they feel there's a need for that or others feel there's a need for that. I'm more interested in being a part of a caucus that would lower taxes in America and create an environment where jobs are going to be created by the private sector, creating an environment where the private sector can grow and create prosperity.

BLITZER: Would you see yourself sort of move and support the Democrats on certain pieces of legislation even though most of the Republicans would walk away from it?

RUBIO: Well, if the Republicans - yes, you know what? If the Democrats propose extending the '01 and '03 tax cuts, if they proposer lowering the corporate tax rates, if they propose doing things that would grow the private sector, I would support that no matter who proposed that.

BLITZER: And most Republicans would support that too?

RUBIO: Well - but, again, it's the policies that I support. And, for example, if there are real serious policies to deal with the structural debt that America faces, because we're headed towards a grease-light day of reckoning. And if there are policies that deal with that, I don't care who proposes those policies, I would support them.

Ultimately, unfortunately, I don't think that this leadership in Congress is going to support those policies.

BLITZER: He's working hard to become the next U.S. senator from Florida. Marco Rubio, thanks for coming in.

RUBIO: Thanks, Wolf.


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