Dec 23, 2015 9:39 PM
NH1 Political Director - NH1.com
FRANKLIN – Whether it’s by design or in reaction to criticism from rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Marco Rubio’s stepping up his game when it comes to interaction with New Hampshire primary voters.
And in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, the senator from Florida professed his love of retail politics, saying “it’s the part of the campaign that’s critical.”
Rubio spoke with NH1 News minutes after headlining a pancake breakfast at the VFW in Franklin on Wednesday. Rubio joined Franklin Mayor Ken Merryfield, who’s endorsed the senator’s presidential campaign, in serving pancakes and bacon to the crowd. Speaking to the audience, Rubio joked that “there’s not supposed to be any bribery in American politics but we’ll bribe people with pancakes and bacon all day if we have to.”
Rubio’s campaign originally told reporters that the senator would be serving breakfast, mingling with the crowd, and making brief comments, but not taking questions from the audience. But the campaign apparently called an audible as Rubio took more than a half dozen questions from the crowd.
The stop in Franklin was the last for Rubio in a three-day swing that included four other town hall style events.
While Rubio’s polling in the top three both in the first-in-the-nation primary state and in national surveys, he’s had to deal with the perception that he’s a lazy campaigner who hasn’t sufficiently personally reached out to court voters. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a rival for the nomination who’s spent more time and held more town halls in the Granite State than any other candidate, took a dig at Rubio earlier this week over the senator’s campaign schedule in New Hampshire.
Asked if the stepped up pace of campaigning and interactions with voters in the Granite State was in reaction to criticism from Christie and others, Rubio told NH1 News “there are some candidates that are only running in one place and so they're there all the time. We are obviously running in multiple places. We want to be successful everywhere. But we've been here all week. We were here the day after the debate, we came straight here, and we'll continue to come back and we feel very good about our operations and our work here and where it's going to lead us in early February.”
Asked if he enjoys retail campaigning, Rubio answered “absolutely. In fact it’s where I come from, politically.”
“My first campaign ever was for a small city, West Miami, where I won by knocking virtually on every door in the city. And then during my time in the state legislature, those were retail campaigns, these districts, with only 100,000 people in them, and only about 10,000 voted. So it’s the part of the campaign that’s critical. It’s one of the things that I like seeing. The next president of the United States has to begin by doing town hall meetings in places like New Hampshire, Iowa, and we look forward to doing more of that,” he added.
Rubio passes on criticizing Trump
Rubio’s swing through New Hampshire came as the feud between Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump and Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton dominated national headlines.
After Clinton, at last weekend’s Democratic debate, said videos of Trump proposing to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. are being used by ISIS as a recruitment tool, Trump returned fire, using a crude sexual reference to describe her defeat in her 2008 bid for the White House.
Asked if Trump’s language was demeaning, Rubio said “I stopped a long time ago commenting on everything Donald Trump says because then I would do nothing all day.”
Rubio then took the fight to the Democratic front runner, saying “I think what we need to be asking is did Hillary Clinton say something that was out of bounds and absolutely she did. In that debate, not only did she lie about those videos being used to recruit ISIS, she said that people losing their health care coverage under Obamacare was a glitch and she said that the strategy on ISIS is working and we finally are where we need to be. It just tells you how out of touch they are on foreign policy and on the issues happening in this country.”
Rubio’s trip also came as another defense hawk running for the GOP nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, ended his longshot White House bid.
Rubio told NH1 News that “we’ve talked to some of his supporters. We haven’t talked to Lindsey. Obviously he was a strong voice for national defense in this debate and will continue to be in the U.S. Senate. I haven’t talked to him personally yet, but we’ve talked to many of his supporters, some of whom have come on board.”
Rubio was joined during this latest campaign swing by his wife Jeanette and his children.
Asked if Granite States will see more of his family, Rubio said “we’d love to bring them back. Obviously they’re in school, they’re young kids, and we don’t want to hold them back there, but we’re going to look for every opportunity to bring them. They enjoy coming, they love coming. They wanted to see snow but it feels like Florida here. So I’ll have to bring them back in January or February when it is more wintry.”
While his family may not be back immediately, Rubio will return to New Hampshire very soon. NH1 News was first to report on social media that the senator will return in about a week and a half.
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