US Election: Marco Rubio aims to improve showing in South Carolina primary

He singled out North Korea as a threat that America has failed to face up to

David Usborne
North Charleston, South Carolina
Saturday 20 February 2016 02:07
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Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday

Going full bore for a better result in South Carolina’s crucial Republican primary, Senator Marco Rubio barnstormed across almost all the corners of the state on Friday, portraying himself as a consensus conservative who will unite his party and the country and defend it from its enemies.

“We can bring this party together,” he told an overflow crowd in a school gym in North Charleston on Friday evening. “We are going to take our conservative principles and put them into action.” Attempting an inspiration tone he added: “If you are President of the United States you have to love all the people even the ones who don’t love you back.”

In a state with large numbers of military families, Mr Rubio, who placed a disappointing fourth place in New Hampshire, has been emphasising what he says have been the failures of President Barack Obama on foreign policy, including “the embrace of our enemies” in Iran.

He singled out North Korea as a threat that America has failed to face up to. “The most important job of the federal government is to keep us safe,” he said. “North Korea is governed by a son of a dictator who has never had a time-out in his life…it is governed by a lunatic, a lunatic. He is not a normal person.” And that nation, he added, had long-range missiles that may potentially reach the US West Coast.

Accompanied throughout the day by the popular governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, the 44-year-old Senator declined to attack any of his rivals directly. He is battling with Jeb Bush and John Kasich, the former and serving Governors of Florida and Ohio respectively, to emerge after Saturday’s Palmetto State primary as the establishment alternative to Donald Trump, who polls say should win the state, and Senator Ted Cruz who may be very close behind.

“We have our differences, I respect that, but we are blessed because we have some incredible people” competing for the Republican nomination in 2016, he averred.

He did, however, open fire on the two Democrat candidates who will battle it out in the same state in their primary on 27 February. “Bernie Sanders is a socialist…He has a right to be a socialist, but we don’t want to be a socialist country. If you want to live in a socialist country then move to a socialist country,” he declared. “We want to be the United States of America.”

But he earned the loudest applause vowing to reverse what he claimed has been the dwindling of the US armed forces. “When I am president we are going to undertake a Reagan-style rebuilding of the United States military” he said, adding that the average age of the aircraft in the US Air Force is 27 years old. “This means the pilots are younger than their planes. This is reckless.

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