Regular readers are likely aware that I am a card-carrying member of the Marco Rubio fan club. Earlier today, I was privileged to be among a small group of conservative journalists who sat down with the freshman Senator to discuss our nation's political state of play. In his brief opening remarks, Rubio previewed his speech to the conference at large, video of which is linked below. First, though, here's a sneak peek of Rubio evaluating President Obama's cynical re-election strategy, building a positive case against class divisions, and seamlessly transitioning into contemplating America's unique role in the world (video via my colleague Ed Morrissey of Hot Air):
During the Q&A session, Rubio fielded queries on a wide array of subjects, from the Iranian nuclear threat, to the president's unconstitutional birth control mandate, to immigration, to how Republicans can win by staying true to their conservative beliefs. NRO's Jim Geragthy has a nice recap on the meeting with key pull quotes, of which I'll pilfer a few:
What he expects from the general election: “You’re going to have an extremely negative [general election] campaign. Barack Obama in 2008 spent more money on negative attacks than anybody who had ever run for office in the United States. Period. And we can expect more of the same. Basically, an all-out assault on the character of whoever his opponent may be, because [Barack Obama] cannot win on his record, he cannot win on his ideas. So he’s going to have to win by eviscerating whoever his opponents are personally. And for all the talk of hope and change, his campaign in 2008 and I expect in 2012 will be nothing less than all-out than personal evisceration.”
On the Senate failing to pass a budget for the past 1,000 days: “Even the most disorganized person I know has a budget. Every family, every business I know has a budget. Every entity I deal with has a budget. The idea that the most powerful government in the world . . . does not have a budget . . . I just think that’s weird. I really don’t understand the logic of it.”
On whether Republicans should risk a government shutdown in future budget fights: “No one here advocates a government shutdown, but we are headed towards the ultimate government shutdown, the mother of all government shutdowns, when we run out of money. That is where we are headed. The sovereign-debt crisis, when people stop buying your bonds and start demanding higher yields, meaning higher interest rates on the money they let you borrow, that stuff happens quickly. There’s no way to predict it, it just happens. Look no further than what the European Union is struggling with to see that’s where we’re headed. The mother of all government shutdowns occurs when we can’t borrow money anymore, or we have to borrow money just to pay the interest on the money we’re borrowing.”
What he thinks the Republican nominee’s message on Obamacare should be, in a nutshell: “One, it’s going to hurt the quality of health care in America; two, it’s going to take away the existing insurance that you’re happy with.”
These answers are framed masterfully. I'll confess that as I watched Rubio effortlessly synthesize powerful conservative ideas with conviction, in an optimistic and unthreatening manner, it was hard to suppress a sense of frustration that the current crop of GOP presidential candidates don't share his gifts. Here's a snippet Rubio lighting up the main ballroom during his well-received speech:
Video of the full speech is available HERE. Seriously, watch the whole thing -- Rubio's lengthy criticism of Obama's anti-religious contraception mandate (beginning around 12:00) is very powerful.