Florida Senator Marco Rubio joined me today to discuss the state of the race on the day after Super Tuesday I:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio, welcome back. What are your thoughts after the Super Tuesday results?
MR: Well, first of all, we always knew it wasn’t going to be our best night, obviously, because Ted had made Super Tuesday his priority, and Ted Cruz had invested a lot of time and energy into some of these states. And he did well in his home state and in Oklahoma, and I guess out in Alaska, but basically, didn’t win any of the other Southern states that he had built his campaign around. We beat him in Georgia, we beat him in Virginia. We came very close to winning in Virginia. I wish we had. We got almost, just one less delegate than Trump, but we had a chance to take him out there, and we got real close. Obviously, we were happy to win in Minnesota, and so we picked up a good chunk of delegates. I think when it’s all said and done, we picked up over a hundred delegates yesterday in a pretty big delegate day, and now the map gets a lot friendlier for us, so we feel good about that.
HH: You won in Minnesota, and I’m wondering about the electoral impact of the Jake Tapper-Donald Trump interview about in which Donald Trump declined to denounce David Duke or the KKK. He did the day before, and he did the day after. But Minnesota, which was almost all day of voters, you won. And in Virginia, you won the late voters a lot. What do you think the impact of that interview was?
MR: Well, I don’t know. It sounds like it’s still not a lot of awareness about it from some of the exit polls I saw, that a significant number of people had not yet heard about it. So it was percolating among some, but I don’t think it was a clear factor. I think, look, we’ve always closed strong in every state. I think the problem is a lot of the votes had already come in, in some of these states. And so that was a large margin to overcome, but we got real close in Virginia, and we would have won Virginia had the race been a little narrower with some less people on the ballot. It is what it is, but what we feel good about now is what lies ahead. If you start to look at the map at the states that are coming up, those are places that perform well for us, if you compare them to similar states previous to that. So what’s abundantly clear here is we have a frontrunner who’s going to struggle to get to 1,237 delegates. It’s on Donald Trump. And what you’re not going to have here, which you traditionally see in these elections, is everyone coming out and saying you have to rally around the frontrunner now for the good of the party. You see the opposite happening. People are trying to figure out how to rally around and come together to stop the frontrunner, because there’s a real sense that we can’t have him as our nominee.
HH: Senator Rubio, you’ve run some tough races. When Charlie Crist tried to take you out, when you were the Tea Party candidate in Florida, and when you began this race, you know what dirty campaigning is like, and what edited campaigning is like. What will the impact be, if Donald Trump is the Republican Party nominee, of that Jake Tapper conversation when it is compressed and endlessly replayed in the fall of 2016, if he were to be the nominee?
MR: Well, I think it makes him potentially unelectable, as I’ve said, but not just because of that. Look, Hugh, one of the things that’s happening, you saw it the other day. Somebody from CBS said that they said I know, I don’t know if Trump is good for America, but he’s good for CBS. I mean, clearly, the spectacle of his campaign has been a bonanza for news agencies, and they’re featuring him. I mean, he gets ten times as much coverage as every other candidate combined. So that’s helped him in this race. But they know about him, what’s laying out there, and as soon as he’s the nominee, they’re going to descend on him and tear him to shreds over months. The Democrats are going to do the same. And I think he’s going to be an electoral disaster for Republicans if he’s our nominee in November. I really do, I’m not just spinning this because he’s my opponent in this race. I really think he costs us the White House and the Senate, and a significant number of House seats, too.
HH: Do you mean down ticket races and state legislative majorities?
MR: Yeah, absolutely.
HH: Now you’ve called him a con man. What specifically do you have in mind?
MR: Well, that is someone that preys upon someone in order to get them to do something for you. So for example, he did this in Trump University, right? He had people go out, and I just spoke to one of the victims of that. He said you know, they brought us in, and they signed us up for this course, and then they would tell us if you really want to make big money, you’ve got to sign up for the next course, always charging you more and more money. Then they tell you if you want a certificate of completion, you’ve got to fill out this certificate of satisfaction to say how happy you are with the course, if you ever want to get invited back to future seminars. And as a result, people paid $36,000 dollars for these courses, and they got nothing. Well, he’s basically doing the same thing now to the American electorate. He is saying that he’s going to do as president what he has never done in 40 years or 50 years of business ever. He has never protected American workers as a businessman. He’s hired foreigners, and he has sent manufacturing overseas to make his clothing line. He’s never cared about illegal immigration. On the contrary, he hired illegal immigrants to build Trump Towers. On issue after issue, you don’t see a business record that reflects the things he’s now talking about doing. So it’s a con job.
HH: And Florida has a rich history of people falling for cons, though. And even if you are correct, does that work as an electoral issue in the Sunshine state?
MR: Yeah, I don’t think so. I mean, look, he’s a celebrity. He’s popular and well-known. I think you’re going to see him do well in polling anywhere in the country until people, but I think what you’ve learned in this campaign is once an election moves to a state, and a state begins to concentrate on the choice before them, his numbers start to come down. So for example, he was beating me in Virginia by 20 and 15 points in the last polls that came out. No one even though Virginia was going to be competitive, and on the night of the election, we were less, under three points from beating him, and I think would have had we had another week. So this is going to happen in Florida.
HH: I’ll be right back with United States Senator Marco Rubio. Don’t go anywhere, America. We’ll continue the conversation about delegate math and the race for Florida, and other states on March 15th, the second Super Tuesday.
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HH: Senator Rubio, delegate math is a process story, but we have to do it, because voters are sophisticated, and they want to know if they’re backing someone who can win. Last night, you told Chuck Todd that Donald Trump has a tough road to 1,237 delegates. Don’t you as well? And what’s your way to get there?
MR: Yeah, I think that’s true, yeah, that’s true for everyone in this race at this point. Look, there’s over 1,700 delegates left to choose. He’s about 300 and some delegates now is what he has now, maybe close to 400. That means he’s going to have to win over 50% of the people that are left, the delegates. He hasn’t done that anywhere in the country. Now if he starts racking up a lot of the winner take all states down the road, that’s possible, but it’s not an easy path if you look at it, especially the way the race now shakes out in places like Florida and Ohio and other places. The same is true for Ted Cruz. So look, it is true that I have a tough road ahead, but so do they. I mean, this is, Hugh, I think it’s time we start to put our arms around something. This is a very unusual election. It’s not like any of the other ones that have come before them, and it’s going to go a lot longer, and take a lot of twists and turns we’re not used to. I mean…
HH: Senator, let me ask you, I began the show with Governor Kasich, and he declined either to ask his supporters to support you in Florida, or declined to do so. And I’m wondering if you want Rubio supporters to vote for John Kasich in Ohio?
MR: You know, I’m not ready to do, that to me is really processy. I’m not, I don’t want to interfere with the process in that way. The truth is that I’m not looking to get involved in stuff like that. I want to do really well in Florida. We’re going to work really hard. We feel really good about our team there. I’m asking people to sign up for our campaign. We had a great night last night online again, www.marcorubio.com. You can go on and be a part of our effort. I honestly believe I am the only one left in this race who can unite the Republican Party. And if we’re not united, we can’t win.
HH: Is there anything wrong with a convention, in theory, this is not a process question, it’s a very important political science question. Anything wrong with a convention nominating someone other than the delegate leader if that delegate leader, when they arrive at the convention, doesn’t have, does have the most number? In other words, is there anything wrong if Donald Trump has 1,100 delegates not, and that’s the most with him, not being the nominee?
MR: You know, that’s why the rules are written the way they are. And you know, I still think there’s a chance it may not come to that, that there could be something between now and then, that even if someone doesn’t have the delegate lead, if someone is clearly in the lead, you can work through that. It’s so premature right now to even discuss that. There’s so much to go. I know Super Tuesday is a big deal, because a lot of delegates were rewarded. But I want to remind everybody they’re awarded proportionately. Look at Virginia. We came in second place, but we got one less delegate than he did. We even got four delegates out of Texas, a state where we didn’t, you know, do particularly well, obviously, with Ted Cruz on the ballot there. So I just feel really good about the states that are coming up. The map starts getting better for us.
HH: It does. It does. I agree.
MR: I mean, Super Tuesday, Ted Cruz built his whole campaign on Super Tuesday, and it didn’t go as well as he wanted to.
HH: Let me ask you about Dr. Ben Carson, who suspended his campaign today. Why should Carson supporters come to Marco Rubio as opposed to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich?
MR: Because I think Carson supporters are people that want what most of us do, and that is that we put a real conservative who can defeat Hillary Clinton. I am the only real conservative in this race, and I give us the best chance to defeat Hillary Clinton, because I can unite the Republican Party. I don’t believe Ted can do that. I know Donald can’t do that, and I can grow the conservative movement. And I don’t believe they can do that like I can, either. And that’s what it’s going to take to beat Hillary Clinton. We’ve got a general election ahead. I give us the best chance to win it, and I happen to be as conservative as anyone in this race.
HH: A lot of people are asking whether you and Senator Cruz are open to talking to each other about what to do post-Super Tuesday, especially those in the #NeverTrump movement? And I will add that as part of the question. What do you think of the #NeverTrump movement, which your colleague, Ben Sasse, and others have signed onto? Is that a prudent movement? And are you and Ted Cruz going to work to support it?
MR: Here’s the reality. 64% of the people who voted yesterday did not vote for Donald Trump, 64%. You have a frontrunner who has never reached 50%, and it’s going to be a real struggle for him to bring…there is a real hard core resistance to him. I think the majority of voters in our party are resistant to him. And as the race narrows, it’s going to become more apparent. But right now, I’m focused on the next states up. You know, we’re in Michigan here today, and we’re campaigning hard. We’re really looking forward to Florida on March 15th. That’s going to be a big night for us. We’re focused on that right now. We feel really good about the states that are coming up. And you know how this process is. Talking to me again on Saturday and on Monday, and after more votes come in, the whole dynamic changes again. There’s been so many ups and downs in this race. And convention wisdom has been wrong the entire time.
HH: That…amen. Let me ask you, then, a substance question of very great importance. A lot of people say boy, Marco Rubio is young. John F. Kennedy was young. He was pushed around by Khrushchev in Vienna in June of 1961. Would Putin and others push around a Marco Rubio the way that Kennedy led to the Cuban Missile Crisis because he was perceived as young and weak by…
MR: You know…
HH: Go ahead.
MR: One of the people that’s dealt with Putin the most by being in the opposite is Gary Kasparov, the great chess master, who’s a vocal and vehement opponent of Putin. He’s talked repeatedly about how in this race, I am the best person to stand up to Vladimir Putin, because I understand who he is, because I understand the geopolitics of the region. He’s made that assessment, and I think it’s someone to listen to. Look, Donald Trump has no foreign policy ideas. On the contrary, he has a very dangerous approach to foreign policy. It’s very disruptive. I think Ted Cruz is already, you know, in many ways, has adopted kind of the lead from behind foreign policy as Barack Obama in certain parts of the world. Again, it’s not a slam on Ted, by the way, who I like and get along with. He doesn’t have the dangerous ideas Donald Trump has, but I just, like a guy like Gary Kasparov, someone who understands and knows Vladimir Putin, has seen him work first-hand, he believes I’m the best positioned to stand up to Putin in the entire race. That includes Hillary.
HH: Let me talk about Hillary, then, and her server specifically. You brought it up in many of the debates. Perhaps we’ll talk about it Thursday in Florida again. The consequences of her secretive and illegal setup, and one of the architects of which has taken the 5th to testify, what are the consequences of that server, not the particular exchanges on it, but that it existed, Senator Rubio?
MR: I think it’s very problematic. You know, I’m on the Intelligence Committee, and if one of my staffers would have removed intelligence information from a classified setting, and taken them out of the building in a briefcase, they would be fired, and they probably would be charged. There’s no difference in putting something like that on an email server. And if you ever reviewed intelligence information, whether it’s marked that way or not, there are clear markings on there, and there’s clear indications to anyone who would read it. You would know this stuff is at a minimum very sensitive, not to mention potentially classified. This is very troubling. If she, what she had been done by someone not as famous or not as powerful, I think this would have been handled very differently at this point.
HH: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you for joining me. I look forward to seeing you on the stage in Miami a week from tomorrow, and I appreciate you taking time today. Congratulations on Minnesota, and we will talk again, I’m sure, before the next Super Tuesday. Thank you, Senator.
MR: Yes, sir. Thank you.
End of interview.