Saturday, July 28, 2012 | 2:44 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., kept a crowd of more than 800 Mitt Romney supporters on their feet Saturday at a rally at C.C. Ronnow Elementary School.
Rubio, considered a contender to run with Romney as a vice president, spoke for more than 20 minutes. He had them giggling about his childhood spent at the school he attended from third through fifth grade, cheering about Romney’s economic principals and jeering at President Barack Obama’s stances.
Rubio said it meant a lot for him to return home to the humid assembly room of his old elementary school. Where he attended class in room 12, became a marbles champion in the schoolyard and watched assemblies in the same spot people were watching him.
It’s where he spent part of his formative early years, and now, as a chance to rally supporters in a key state in the presidential election.
“Nevada is one of the most critical swing states in the country. It also happens to be a state, particularly in Southern Nevada, that’s struggling under the economy … one of the reasons people here are struggling is because people around the country and the world don’t have enough money to come like they used to.”
Rubio focused his speech on economic policy and free enterprise. He talked about Romney’s principals that the government shouldn’t interfere with businesses. He used his family, which came to America from Cuba in 1956, as an example of ways Americans can create their own economic success.
Rubio hammered home the concept of the impact a smaller government and fewer taxes can make on people’s lives. Particularly, he said, in Las Vegas, where he believes it would help bring more tourists again and replenish areas struck by the recession.
“Now is the time to embrace the things that made (America) better, and different and special,” Rubio said in his speech. “That’s what November gives us a chance to do.”
Prior to the speech, people in the crowd fanned themselves with Romney signs and manila envelopes that contained phone numbers they were encouraged to call to gather voters. Rally supporters were treated to brief speeches from Nevada District 9 Senate candidate Mari Nakashima St. Martin and Nevada Rep. Joe Heck.
Most, like North Las Vegas resident Karla Ferguson, were there to hear Rubio’s speech.
“We’re Republicans … We want to see Obama out of office so we’re interested in Rubio,” Ferguson said prior to the event. “We want to hear what he says about the economy and immigration.”
Still, not everyone came out to the school to support Rubio and Romney. Dream Big Vegas organizers protested Rubio outside the school. The nonprofit organization supports the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants who go to college or join the military.
They held signs that read “Rubio against the Dream Act" and “Rubio, crown prince of the tea party.” Protest organizer Rudy Zamora said they don’t believe Rubio has the Latino community’s best interest at heart.
“We want to hear his status on immigration, he likes to flip-flop a lot,” Zamora said. “We want to hear him take a firm stand; if he supports us, we’ll support him.”
Though he did not touch on the Dream Act in his speech, Rubio said he feels immigration is important to America and makes it special. But, he said, the country needs a better immigration system. Although he is familiar with the plight of many illegal immigrants, he stressed a need for a balanced immigration law.
“I like to remind people a couple things: One is that we’re one of the most generous countries in the world on immigration,” Rubio said. “That being said, we have a broken immigration system; we don’t have a workable guest worker program. All those things contribute to illegal immigration.”
Nevada state Sen. Mo Denis, who is Rubio’s cousin, also stopped by the school after Rubio’s speech. He said his cousin’s Republican Party affiliation doesn’t fill the needs of the Latino community like jobs, education and heath care.
“There are huge needs in our community, and I don’t see that filled by the Republican Party,” Denis said. “I don’t see my community reflected in the Republican Party values.”
Denis said he didn’t attend the speech, but he knows one thing about his cousin: He kept the crowd entertained.