After being off-air for months, GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio rolls out this spot to introduce himself to Florida voters for the general election:
The ad echoes Rubio's stump speech, which Fred Barnes described in his recent cover story on the Florida Senate race: "It’s intensely patriotic and focused on how he’d like voters to see the choice they face in the election. It’s better than any speech I’ve heard from a Republican candidate or elected official in a long time. And Rubio delivers it passionately."
Rubio gave the essence of the speech in his farewell address to the Florida legislature in March 2009. He delivered it again at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last February. He repeated parts of it during his debate with Crist on Fox News Sunday in March. I heard him give the speech to the Florida Family Policy Council in May and to business groups in Orlando in July.
The core of the speech is a paean to American exceptionalism. He mentions the word “exceptional” repeatedly, perhaps to highlight the contrast with President Obama, who suggested to a French audience last year that America is no more exceptional than any other country. The election, Rubio told the Southeast Building Conference, will decide whether America will “continue to be exceptional or be like everybody else.”
At CPAC, Rubio dwelt on the theme of exceptionalism. “I am privileged to be a citizen of the single greatest society in all of human history,” he said.
There’s never been a nation like the United States, ever. . . . It’s sometimes easy to forget how special America really is. . . . What makes America great is that there are dreams that are impossible everywhere else but are possible here. . . . This is the only place in the world where you can open up a business in the spare bedroom of your home.
Rubio often cites one of Ronald Reagan’s stories. A Cuban exile told Reagan, “Don’t feel sorry for us. We had somewhere to go. Where are Americans going to go if they lose this great country?” The idea is “you could lose what made us exceptional,” Rubio explains. “Reagan kind of represented this re-embrace of the notion that America could remain exceptional.” Now Rubio does, or will if he’s elected. “It’s certainly not inevitable” that America will become “just another important country. It’s a choice.”
America’s greatness “didn’t happen automatically, didn’t happen accidentally, and won’t continue automatically,” he says. Voters must choose the future they want. Here’s how Rubio described the choice to me:
There are those who believe the country is headed in the right direction, who believe that jobs are created by the president and the U.S. Senate and the Congress and government, and who believe the world is a safer place if America retreats from it and weakens itself. People who believe those things should not vote for me. There are two other candidates running they can support.
If, on the other hand, you believe it’s the private sector and only private sector growth that will create the kind of revenue that we need in our country and the positive economic influence that we need, if you believe the government should not spend more money than it takes in, and if you believe the world is a safer place when America is the strongest country in the world, I’m the only candidate with ideas to help accomplish that. And that’s what the choice is going to be in November.
That’s a pretty stark choice. But “people are looking for voices that offer them serious choices, policy choices,” Rubio insists.
I think what they’re tired of is a political process that’s full of people who will say or do anything to get elected, people who treat elections like a high-stakes beauty pageant where all you have to do is shake a few hands and memorize a few lines that test well.
The key point in Rubio’s speech, apart from his defense of American exceptionalism, is economic growth. “You can’t build your national defenses if your economy is not generating revenue that will pay for it, and you can’t pay down your debt,” he says.
I think the way you do it is you grow your economy, you find more people jobs, you create more entrepreneurs. You create new industries that multiply the number of jobs-created. . . . What we are getting out of Washington today and all levels of government is anti-job creation.
His speech emphasizes the big picture, but Rubio also has a wonkish underside. Last week, he put out a dozen “simple ways to cut spending,” starting with cuts of 10 percent in the budgets of the White House and Congress. Earlier, he announced 12 ways to “grow our economy” and 11 to “help the Gulf Coast economy to recover.” His economic ideas include permanently extending the Bush tax cuts and ending “job-destroying double taxation of capital gains, dividends, or death.”