Florida Republican Marco Rubio, who has raised his national profile by helping craft immigration legislation the Senate is set to pass this week, said he’d decide late next year whether to run for president in 2016.
“At some point in late 2014, what I am going to have to decide is, do I want to serve another term in the Senate, do I want to run for another office?,” the first-term senator told members of the American Society of News Editors today in Washington. “I’ll make that decision at that time based on a lot of different factors.”
The 42-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio is seen by many in his party as a potentially strong 2016 presidential contender who could serve as bridge to Hispanic voters and to the young, groups that overwhelmingly backed President Barack Obama in 2012.
As a lead author of the immigration measure that Senate leaders want to pass this week, though, Rubio has drawn criticism from some Republicans who object to the citizenship path the bill would create for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Factors that would affect his decision to seek the Republican presidential nomination include determining whether he has something to contribute at that level and the consequences running would have on his family, Rubio said.
“When you’re in a rental car, driving from stop to stop, you better know why you’re running and you better be passionate about it,” he said, adding that his “kids that are getting older,” and he needed to “figure out what’s right for them.”
Rubio and his wife have four children.
His expanding national profile includes in February giving the first-ever bilingual response to the president’s State of the Union address -- during which Rubio, in front of the camera, gulped from a Poland Spring water bottle. That prompted a flurry of comments on Twitter, including one from the senator poking fun at himself by posting a picture of the plastic bottle.
Last August, he followed actor Clint Eastwood’s infamous diatribe to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, to introduce Mitt Romney for his speech accepting the party’s presidential nomination.
The Feb. 18 cover of Time magazine featured Rubio and the headline “The Republican Savior,” spurring criticism from Christian groups and prompting Rubio to post on Twitter, “There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus.”
Viewed by many of his Senate colleagues as a rising star, Rubio is one of three Hispanics in the chamber. Republicans say he’s well-positioned to help the party attract Latino voters, 71 percent of whom backed Obama in November.
Elected in 2010 with backing from the anti-tax Tea Party, Rubio has cultivated a more moderate image over the past two years, most notably with his backing of the immigration measure. Many House Republicans oppose the Senate bill because of its citizenship path, which they maintain is tantamount to amnesty.
If Congress passes a law revising U.S. immigration policy, that wouldn’t automatically cause Republicans’ support among Hispanics to spike, Rubio said in his speech. Instead, it would free up Republicans to focus on small-government economic arguments that he said would appeal to Hispanic voters.
“I have never, ever said to anyone, and I will not say here today that if we pass this bill, Republicans are going to get to 55 percent of the Hispanic vote across the country,” Rubio said. “I do think that if we do deal with this issue, it will allow us to talk about other issues that I think do matter to all Americans, but especially Americans of Hispanic descent.”
Recent controversies that have involved the Obama administration, including the Internal Revenue Service’s extra scrutiny of small-government groups and reports of the Justice Department obtaining secret search warrants for telephone records of some journalists, have fueled public distrust of the federal government and prompted skepticism of the immigration measure, Rubio said.
“This distrust that people have of government, it’s real,” he said. “And in my opinion, it’s legitimate, and it is justified.”
Lawmakers and members of the public don’t trust that the administration will follow through on pledges to secure the U.S. border, Rubio said. He has been among those pressing his Senate colleagues to enhance border security in the pending legislation, both to win acceptance in the Senate and to ease opposition in the Republican-run House.
“I don’t believe for the most part that the resistance to immigration reform at all has anything to do with people not wanting Hispanics here or minorities here,” he said. “I just don’t believe that’s the gist of it. I think the gist of it is people are worried about -- not just our sovereignty -- but they’re really suspicious of Washington.”
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