Despite all the speculation, Marco Rubio made one thing clear during his 21-minute appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington, D.C., on Friday morning: He still hasn’t decided whether he’s running for president.
“I haven’t made that decision yet, Sean, but good try,” he said, smiling after moderator Sean Hannity asked him why he wanted to be president. He refused to respond to Hannity’s follow-up about where he stood on a scale of 1-to-100 on making such a decision. “I have to decide through careful prayer where is the best place for me to serve this country at this stage in my life.”
Hannity helpfully noted that while Florida election law forbids him from running simultaneously for two offices, he doesn’t have to decide about running for re-election to his senate seat until next spring. But Rubio said he wouldn’t play political games, because he doesn’t intend on spending his whole life in politics. “Maybe I’ll buy an NFL team,” he said.
Rubio took the first six and a half minutes of his time in front of the CPAC audience to give a variation of his speech on American exceptionalism, with a considerable dose of Barack Obama bashing.
“And a foreign policy that treats the Ayatollah in Iran with more respect than the Prime Minister of Israel,” he said solemnly, declaring that the country was on the decline — but could be reversed if a Republican wins the White House in 2016.
The president’s negotiations with Iran have become the latest issue that the political right has seized upon of late, and Rubio kept that theme when Hannity later asked him what he would do to battle ISIS.
Rubio said that if Obama truly wanted to defeat the terrorist organization militarily, it could be done. Making it sound so obvious that it’s shocking that the administration hasn’t tried it already, he would round up a military force of Sunni Arab nations like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and the U.A.E., aided by U.S. air power. He didn’t explain whether that would involve U.S. ground troops, however, and instead used it as a talking point to slam Obama for wanting to avoid upsetting Iran.
“He doesn’t want to do anything that upsets Iran and they don’t like it when we send military force in the region, because they think the region should belong to them,” Rubio said.
A major knock on Rubio among hardline conservatives occurred during the middle of his first term for Senate: his out-front support for a comprehensive immigration bill that he seemed to immediately distance himself from after it passed in the Senate. He again Friday said that other issues such as border security and a system to verify undocumented workers is required before revisiting the legislation that he helped shepherd through the Senate.
“You can’t just tell people you’re going to secure the border, you’re going to put E-Verify — you have to do it. They have to see it, they have to see it working, and then they’re going to have a reasonable conversation with you about the other parts. But they don’t even want to talk about it until that’s done first. And what’s happened over the last two years: the migratory crisis this summer, the two executive orders, that’s now more true than ever.”
In a lightning round of questions and answers, the only answer that was truly provocative was when Hannity asked the Rubio about Hillary Clinton.
“Yesterday,” he responded.
“Oooh,” Hannity responded.