Rubio stops in Tampa Bay one last time before election listen11/01/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Unless something completely unforeseen happens, Marco Rubio is expected to have an easy win in the race for Floridaâ€™s open US Senate seat. The rising GOP star breezed through Tampa Bay today in one final attempt to urge Floridians to vote.
The bizarre tale of Floridaâ€™s US Senate race is winding down, and most people will tell you itâ€™s a cakewalk for Marco Rubio at this point. Still, heâ€™s using the final moments before Election Day to rally the troops.
He doesnâ€™t take the time to go to some out-of-the-way restaurant or country club. Indeed, when he disembarks from the small plane thatâ€™s taking him from Jacksonville to St. Pete, then to Orlando and Hialeah, Rubio stumps right there in the hangar at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport.
"We are 24 hours away from what I think is going to be one of the most important elections in modern American history."
He speaks to a crowd of about two dozen, which is pretty small compared to most of Rubioâ€™s campaign stops for the past few months. But he doesnâ€™t seem too worried about todayâ€™s turnout.
"It's great that we've won the battle of ideas and I know we have."
Thatâ€™s because the polls show Rubio enjoying a sizable lead. A Quinnipiac poll out today has Rubio with 45 percent of the vote, independent Charlie Crist with 31 percent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek with 18 percent. Still, Rubio urges those in attendance to get out the vote.
"And I think our next US Senator will need to be someone that will go to Washington and stand up to this agenda and offer an alternative. I think that message will motivate people to vote. I hope that it will. So far the early numbers indicate that it will. But we've got to keep pressing forward. We're not there yet. We haven't won anything yet."
At a recent debate, Rubio joked that Governor Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party after realizing he couldnâ€™t beat Rubio in the GOP primary, was heckling him. Today, he has a real heckler.
The disgruntled audience member is asking Rubio why he flip-flopped on cap-and-trade. During Rubioâ€™s tenure as house speaker, the Florida legislature had passed a bill directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish rules for capping carbon dioxide emissions and establishing a trading regime for carbon credits. Rubio voted for it, but has since denied supporting the policy. Rubio has no answer, and the heckler gets escorted out.
For the most part, Rubio epitomizes the new conservatism championed by the likes of Glenn Beck. He opposes a womanâ€™s right to choose, heâ€™s not too sure about the cause of global warming, and he doesnâ€™t exactly think the federal health care overhaul is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
"All I can tell you is that the direction Washington's taking our country is the wrong direction. I think both political parties are to blame for it but we've never seen anything like the last two years. And what we need are people who are going to go up there and call it out for what it is. I think we have an opportunity as a nation, irrespective of how the elections turn out tomorrow, we're going to have to come together and solve some pretty major issues really quickly."
But he does say there are a few issues that transcend party lines.
"I think this national debt issue, the bottom line is I think everyone agrees that we can't afford it and we better get a hold of it fairly quickly. And I think everyone can agree that we've got to be successful in Afghanistan. And that our country needs to take the threats of global terrorism seriously. I think these are issues that there's broad support for and I hope that we can have a governing consensus on those items."
Still, you wonâ€™t find many moderates at a Rubio Rally. For almost anyone you talk to, dollars are the first and foremost issue. Supporter Gail Habert says she supports Rubio because he might be able to do something about the over-burdened Social Security program.
"You know Social Security is a problem. We're going to have a problem with it. I'm on Social Security. You know what? My kids may not get it."
She says she also likes the Republican Senate hopeful because of his stance on the environment.
"Do we have a problem with the environment? Yes, but some of the extreme measures that are being passed to protect the environment are just not the way to go. We need to do it in a more people friendly atmosphere."
Not everyone here is a dyed-in-the-wool tea partier. Mickey Neher says heâ€™s here today because he wanted to hear what Rubio has to say.
"Well, Charlie Crist, I was an original supporter of his until I just couldn't believe him any longer. He just flip flops so much, will say anything that needs to be said at a particular time. Marco Rubio has been saying the same thing for 21 months."
From pricey haircuts to bizarre pre-dawn voicemail messages, Floridaâ€™s US Senate race has had its eyebrow-raising moments. But as the final 24 hours of the election cycle wind down, many think the race will conclude rather predictably. More than two million Floridians have already cast their ballots and early voting sites are seeing a 65 percent jump over 2006.