LAS VEGAS — Sometimes primary elections are decided less by differences on issues than by questions of character.
If Marco Rubio outperforms in Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses, it might be because voters in the Silver State see the Florida senator as more trustworthy than his Republican rivals and possessing a personality more conducive to getting things done in Washington.
At the Texas Station casino far off the Vegas Strip, Rubio made his pitch Sunday to a packed hall, just a day after he was propelled back to political life by earning a narrow second place finish in the South Carolina primary.
“I’m asking you to caucus for me because if you nominate me we will win this election,” Rubio said, arguing he is the only Republican candidate who can unite the party.
Many who attended the rally said Rubio appeals not only because he may be the most electable candidate in the race, but because he is more honest than his Republican rivals.
“I trust him,” Linda Bruzzone, a volunteer precinct captain for Rubio, told The Daily Caller.
“I would say his honesty. He’s an extremely bright young man and he’s positive,” said Kelly Williams, another attendee.
Dean Schaibley, who served in the Army from 2001 to 2005, likes Rubio’s positions on the issues, but just as importantly he said he thinks Rubio is the only candidate in the Republican field who can work with Democrats in Washington to get things done.
“What it comes down to is Marco is going to be able to work with both sides,” he explained. “For our country to move forward you got to be able to work across both sides.”
Retired Marine Corps Colonel Jonathan Brazee said he was deciding between Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich for a similar reason.
“I think Donald Trump would be detrimental to the country,” he said of the billionaire Republican front-runner. “I think [Texas Sen. Ted] Cruz cannot work with the Democrats.”
Right now, Trump holds a large lead in Nevada, according to the few polls that have been conducted in the state, with Rubio far back competing with Cruz for second place. A couple of attendees at the Rubio rally admitted that they were leaning toward Trump but were open to possibly switching to Rubio.
Robin Brimer likes Trump on economic and security issues, but said he is a little annoyed with Trump’s statement last week during a CNN town hall that he supports the Obamacare mandate. (Trump has since backtracked on that position.)
“Sounds like he is just changing the name of Obamacare to something else,” Brimer said.
“I just kind of trust him to get a lot of things done, but are they going to be good things?” he added. But Brimer said that as of now he is giving Trump the benefit of the doubt and that he hopes Trump will pick Rubio as his running mate should he be the nominee.
Sporting a tattoo sleeve on his arm, Brian Larsun said before Rubio’s speech that he is also leaning toward Trump because of the real estate mogul’s business background, but came to the event with his wife and son because he has been impressed by Rubio’s recent debate and televised town hall performances.
“I’m very, very open to just anybody now,” he explained, before stipulating that being open to anybody does not mean being open to Cruz.
“I just feel that he is not really authentic,” he said. “He’s more like a machine.”
After Rubio finished speaking, Larsun told TheDC that he was impressed by Rubio’s speech and now considers him “neck and neck” with Trump in his considerations.
“What I notice about him that he has a lot of visions that Donald Trump has as well, but more detailed, which is important,” Larsun explained.
This being Vegas, some in the crowd were little more than eccentric voyeurs there to see a show.
“I’m the best story you got in this place,” Richard Schwartz confided to TheDC.
With his Trump-like humility, Schwartz explained he is among that rare demographic that really likes Rubio and Democratic contender Bernie Sanders.
“I think he’s the best spokesman,” he said of Rubio, before adding: “Sanders would be great if he was not my age.”But Schwartz didn’t really want to talk politics so much, at least not current politics. The white-bearded near-octogenarian wanted to discuss the secret American military operation in Cuba he claims he was supposed to be apart of in 1961 because of his resemblance to Fidel Castro. The Bay of Pigs Invasion?
“Something even worse, but it didn’t happen thank God,” Schwartz said, suggesting his mission would have involved chemical warfare.
Unfortunately for Rubio, even though Schwartz likes the Florida senator, he doesn’t intend to caucus Tuesday. He said he lives across the street from Texas Station and was just at the rally to check out the scene.