Amid signs the Republican presidential contest in Iowa has become a close two-way race between Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio staked a claim Tuesday to one of the other tickets out of the Feb. 1 caucuses.
If nominated, Rubio told a crowded town hall meeting here, “I will win this election. I will unite the party.”
He repeated his indirect criticism of Trump, the frontrunner. “Being angry is not enough,” Rubio said.
Polls show the Florida senator trails Trump, who will hold a rally here later Tuesday. He also trails Cruz, who spent Tuesday in Iowa.
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But a strong third-place finish in Iowa might leave Rubio as a viable GOP alternative to either Trump or Cruz. It might also boost Rubio’s chances in New Hampshire, which casts ballots eight days after Iowa.
“I’m here to ask you to vote for me in the caucuses next Monday night,” he said.
He asked for Iowans’ votes after a blistering attack against President Barack Obama. He called Obama a “lawless president” who has tried to undermine the Constitution and divided the American people.
“There are consequences to that,” he said.
And, he said, electing Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders would continue Obama’s policies. “Hillary Clinton is disqualified,” he said, because of her actions surrounding the terror attacks in Benghazi.
He said it was “outrageous” that activists who secretly videotaped a Planned Parenthood office were charged with crimes, while the organization was not charged. A Texas grand jury indicted the makers of the video on Monday on charges of selling fetal tissue and falsifying documents.
He also talked about his faith, a sign in part of the importance of religious conservatives in the Iowa GOP.
“Every American has a right to live out the teachings of their faith,” he said.
About 200 people attended the town hall session at a community college in Marshalltown. Not all of the attendees appeared to support the senator: one asked about health care for the disabled, while another appeared to question Rubio’s stance opposing abortion rights.
Rubio wore a fleece jacket and no tie, and like most of the candidates in Iowa he seemed energized and weary at the same time.
Rubio — endorsed by the Des Moines Register Sunday — plans to campaign in Iowa through Saturday, with other events possible after that.