LAS VEGAS _ I’ve been covering FreedomFest here for the last few days for an upcoming story I’m writing about libertarians for Playboy.com. On Friday night Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida—who’s seeking the Republican nomination for the 2016 election—spoke to a packed ballroom at Planet Hollywood. I’m glad I was here. It’s not often I get to check out a presidential contender in person. They only come to LA, where I live, to collect large checks and ensnarl our traffic.
Here’s everything I knew about Rubio before tonight: He’s young and handsome. He doesn’t appear to be one of those annoying put-some-Jesus-on-it Republicans. He was nationally roasted for taking a sip of water on TV once.
Rubio told us his family story. It’s a story he clearly has told many, many times before. It’s a nice story. It’s about the American dream. His mother and father moved to America from Cuba, and they worked hard and raised four children and made a life for themselves in their new home.
Listening to him speak, I thought, “Of course Rubio is running for president. Immigrant children work their asses off.” (Somewhere Donald Trump’s head is exploding. And by somewhere I mean here—he is coming to FreedomFest tomorrow.)
But during the speech I kept asking myself, “Could this guy be our next president?” Then I thought, “Didn’t we just elect a young, handsome senator who was a good speaker with a great narrative? And would we do that again?” I think that’s his real challenge, more so than any single opponent, that he has to overcome.
I will say this about Rubio: it was refreshing to hear him mention the global economy as a factor as to why “the road to the American dream has narrowed.” The easy thing to do on the stump is blame the other side. You don’t win political points by acknowledging that some factors are not the result of the opposing party’s incompetence. It’s a mature point to make, and it was the most impressive moment of his speech.
I taped the end, in which Rubio talked about his father: