Marco Rubio calls Jeb Bush & Mitt Romney “formidable,” but says he can compete

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With the publication of his new book, American Dreams coming out tomorrow, expect to see and hear a lot of Marco Rubio this week.

On CBS’ This Morning, the Florida Senator made appearances in both hours of the morning news show, with a longer hit in the 8 a.m. Eastern time zone block to discuss U.S. Cuban policy, his concerns about economic inequality and whether he can get his message out more effectively in the Senate or as a presidential candidate.

Despite the conventional wisdom that his aspirations to run for the GOP nomination have been dealt a mortal blow with the intense approach that fellow Floridian Jeb Bush has taken so far, Rubio repeated that “If I run for president, it’s won’t be against anyone. It’ll be because I have an agenda that no one else is offering on our side of the aisle, and I believe I would do a better job than they would.”

Rubio said that while both Bush and Mitt Romney (who is making noises about entering the race) are “formidable candidates,” he insisted that their potential candidacies does not derail his goal, which currently is to determine which office allows him to accomplish his policy goals – as a presidential contender or remaining in the Senate.

“I just honestly believe that if you are committed to a policy agenda and you believe that no one else is speaking about the issues that you believe in and you can put together a credible campaign, which I believe we can, irrespective of whoever else is in the race – you do it,” he replied. “And if I decide that the best place for me to serve America at this time in my life, is as president of the United States, I’ll run for president, and I’m confident that we can put together a campaign that makes us competitive and allows us to run.”

When CBS anchor Charlie Rose asked if it wasn’t evident that running for president would give him the bigger platform for his ideas, Rubio said he still hasn’t figured that answer out yet, and mentioned how historically some people have accomplished a lot in the Senate (He didn’t mention names, but Ted Kennedy would be one example).

Rubio is talking a lot about economic inequality these days, and said that there are three main changes that make it harder for people in our current economic system: 1) More global competition, 2) Higher paying jobs require skills and education that many of our workers don’t have, and 3) The high cost of living, mentioning how people like his parents previously didn’t have to contend with paying cellphone bills.

Earlier today it was reported that Cuba had released all 53 prisoners it had promised to free, in advance of historic talks between the U.S. and the communist island aimed at normalizing relations after five decades.

Rubio has been a huge critic of the deal, and he didn’t back down much today, even with the positive development.

“Certainly for those 53 prisoners it’s great news,” he replied. “Unfortunately, we don’t know who they are. That list has been kept secret from the world. My understanding from the ones who have been released is that many of them are at the end of their terms anyway, and all have been warned that if they take up the cause of democracy they’ll be right back in jail.” He insisted that he didn’t mean to “diminish” the news about the 53 prisoners, but said that in the recent diplomatic exchange with the U.S., “The Cubans are getting virtually everything they want from the Obama administration.” He added that “I don’t have a problem with changing U.S. policy towards Cuba, but it has to be a reciprocal change for economic openness.”

When challenged by Rose that the U.S. now has diplomatic relations with former foes Vietnam and China, Rubio was dismissive, saying that neither of those governments has moved substantially towards more freedom for their people. “China today is as tyrannical and as oppressive as its ever been in some cases more so,” he said, adding that was still the case with Vietnam and Burma (Myanmar), which he said is actually backtracking from recent progress.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]



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