ALTOONA, Iowa – As the Republican Party regroups after Mitt Romney’s defeat, the message Saturday night at Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s birthday fundraiser was “turn the page” and “look to the future” — and what that future apparently holds is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the event’s featured speaker.
Rubio was invited to speak at the event around Sept. 1, Branstad told The Daily Caller, and had Romney won, the atmosphere might have been a bit different.
But only 11 days after voters went to the polls and Republicans came up short, Rubio was speaking to a crowd that had trained its sights squarely on 2016. (RELATED OPINION: Why Rubio is likely to lead 2016 GOP presidential pack)
In his speech, Rubio weaved together the personal and the economic. He discussed the importance of a stable family life to a stable economy, and how critical the success of the middle class is not just to the country’s financial situation, but also to its place in the world. American exceptionalism, Rubio said, is important to every nation, not just the United States.
“The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer; it’s by making poor people richer,” Rubio said.
The Florida senator talked about the need to improve the country’s immigration system and develop a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. He also emphasized the importance of education reform, which he said is necessary to ensure that future generations are competitive in the global economy.
“People understand that we need to do something to address those issues, and they want to do that in a reasonable and responsible way,” Rubio told the crowd.
Rubio also talked about his personal history. He reminded attendees that his parents immigrated to the United States and gave him the opportunity to attend college and become a senator.
It’s that personal story that has led several Iowa Republicans to declare Rubio “the future” of the Republican Party.
“I just think he’s the future,” Branstad told TheDC. “He’s the kind of leadership that we need, and I think he’s a very intelligent, articulate, and he is a great example of the American dream, and that’s exactly what we have to make available for more and more people.”
“I just thought, you know, it’s a great way to kind of turn the page, look to the future, and he’s somebody that I think is going to be a real leader for this country in the future,” Branstad said, explaining why he had invited Rubio to keynote his birthday party fundraiser.