With just over a week before Election Day in Arkansas, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio campaigned in Little Rock Sunday, warning that an extended fight for the GOP nomination could cost the party the election.
His rally at the Statehouse Convention Center came one day after Sen. Rubio narrowly beat Sen. Ted Cruz for second place in the South Carolina primary, with Donald Trump coming in first.
"We have to come together," Rubio said. "If we’re still fighting against each other in July and August and September and October, we will lose."
Rubio argued in his 40 minute speech that he’s the one candidate in the party who can win the general election.
"The Democrats know this. They attack me more than any other Republican in this race because they know that if I’m our nominee we win. Why? Because number one, I’m going to unify this party when I’m our nominee."
Rubio never mentioned his Republican opponents by name, taking aim instead at the two Democratic candidates. "We will lose the American dream if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is elected," he said.
On Sen. Sanders, Rubio told the crowd, "He’s a Democratic socialist and that doesn’t make any sense me. Democratic socialist? There’s like dozens of socialist countries in the world. If you want to live in a socialist country, move to a socialist country. We want to be America."
Rubio brought up the former Secretary of State by saying, "she used to have a house here, her name is Hillary Clinton," with the crowd then booing. "Well she’s not qualified to be President of the United States, she’s not qualified. Hillary Clinton is under FBI investigation because she took classified information and put it on her private server because she thinks she’s above the law,"
Rubio also suggested that Clinton lied to the families of four Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Rubio shared details with the crowd of his family leaving Cuba for Florida in 1956, with his father working as a bartender at a Miami Beach hotel and his mother as a maid. They struggled and sometimes questioned whether they made a mistake by leaving their homeland, Rubio said, but persevered because they loved America.
In an apparent reference to former Republican rival Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race Saturday night, and Donald Trump, Rudio said, "This is the only place on earth where the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as the son of a president and the son of a millionaire."
Many Arkansas legislators were in the audience at Sunday’s rally. Earlier in the month 28 lawmakers had announced their support for Rubio, with some taking leadership positions in the state campaign.
State Sen. Bart Hester, who is Rubio’s Arkansas chairman, introduced him by calling Rubio "one man who can unify all factions of the Republican Party, can march us down the field and deliver a victory in November."
But some in the audience said they’re still not sure who they’ll vote for in next week’s primary.
23-year-old Hannah London said she wanted to hear what Rubio had to say as she’s educating herself about the candidates.
"I’m still learning. I like him though, just his views on things," she said.
Her father, who didn’t want to give his name, said he was somewhat skeptical and wanted to learn more about Rubio.
"I like Marco in that right now he’s claiming his Christianity, but I just want to know if it’s for real or if it’s just (him speaking) in the bible belt and if he’s going to do it in the liberal states," he said. "I’m old enough to know what politics is. They need us for our votes, but other than that, after they get there, the story changes."
Arkansas was one of three states Rubio visited Sunday. He also spoke at rallies in Tennessee and Nevada.
Meanwhile Sen. Cruz is to visit Arkansas next weekend. A campaign official told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the Senator from Texas will make his third visit to the state next Sunday at a yet to be determined location.