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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Sen. Marco Rubio stuck with his standard stump speech Friday, taking no new chances and apparently hoping a last-minute endorsement from South Carolina’s popular Republican governor will have a huge impact in Saturday’s crucial GOP primary.
Rubio (R-Fla.) focused almost entirely on Democrats, bashing President Barack Obama and the party’s two presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Unlike some of his GOP rivals, Rubio, in a speech at a high school gym here, made scant reference to his Republican competition, other than saying he was an electable Republican.
“I will win this election,” Rubio told supporters, an argument reminiscent of one put forth by supporters of Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. “The (Democrats) do not want to run against me.”2016 election2016 Voters Guide: What to know See alsoDelegate trackerMore coverageThe 2016 campaign: Complete coverage
The conservative freshman senator asserted: “We can bring this party together . . . and grow this movement.”
He promised to rebuild the U.S. military and protect religious rights. And the 44-year-old promoted his candidacy as a chance to make a generational change of political leaders, using the word “generation” repeatedly in his address.
In sum, Rubio largely followed the same playbook he has used in the Republican debates.
But the biggest applause came for Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Rubio the day before. The Rubio camp is hoping it will create a surge for him — he is roughly tied with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in most South Carolina polls, with both trailing Donald Trump by double digits.
Haley said she backed Rubio because she wanted a “candidate who will bring” a conscience “back to Republicans.”
“To remind us of who we are,” Haley said to the cheering crowd. “This is the new look of the conservative” movement.