Mr. Rubio Goes to Washington

By Matt Loffman

May 4, 2010 5:01pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Matt Loffman report:

Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio visited Washington on Tuesday, almost one year after announcing his long-shot bid against Gov. Charlie Crist (R). Since that time, Rubio has been hailed in the New York Times Magazine as possibly "the first senator from the Tea Party" and Crist has abandoned the GOP to run for the US Senate as an independent.

“A lot of changes since then,” said Rubio during a mid-day press conference on Capitol Hill. “When I first got into the race, virtually the entire Republican establishment endorsed Governor Crist within 13 minutes of his announcement.”

Today’s press conference took place in the lobby of Human Events, a conservative newspaper, where Rubio was scheduled to be interviewed. The former Speaker of the Florida House was in Washington for a lunchtime fundraiser with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., one of his earliest, high-profile backers.

Rubio had several other meetings as well, including one with the National Rifle Association.

On the question of this weekend’s failed Times Square car bombing, Rubio questioned whether the suspect should have been read his Miranda rights following his arrest.

“It all depends on how they're going to try him,” said Rubio. “. . . if this individual has information that helps prevent future attacks and loss of life, nothing should stand in the way of that including Miranda.”

On President Obama’s decision to ask Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the civil rights implications of Arizona’s stringent immigration law, Rubio said: “I would prefer the Obama administration to focus on border security which is a fundamental national security issue and a fundamental federal obligation.  It’s one the federal government has failed at, and it's what's led to this in Arizona.”

Although Rubio does not favor an Arizona-type law for Florida, he sympathizes with the public safety concerns of some in the Grand Canyon State.

“Florida has a different situation.  Florida is not on the border of Mexico,” said Rubio. “What's happening in Mexico, I mean on the Mexican border with Arizona, is that, it's not simply an immigration issue.  I was there a month and a half ago before any of this became so heated, and time and again people there were telling me this is a public safety issue – that you are seeing some of the drug violence in Mexico spilling over the border in dramatic fashion into Arizona, into major cities like Phoenix.  And that's what led to this action.  Quite frankly, it was inevitable because the federal government has failed to act particularly with regard to the Mexican border and the sad reality of what's happening in Mexico.”

In the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill, Rubio refused to rule out the need for additional off-shore drilling even as he articulated his support for developing alternative sources of energy.

"In the short term, our economy will still be heavily dependent on petroleum,” said Rubio. “And America has to answer a fundamental question: How dependent does it want to be on foreign sources of energy, particularly areas of the world that are hostile and unstable and unfriendly to the United States and its interests?"

"There is going to be drilling off the coast of the United States," he continued. "Venezuela is going to be there. China is going to do it. Russia is going to do it. Cuba might do it. And so the United States has to make a decision about energy independence. And that's an issue we're going to have to confront.”

Offshore drilling has once again become a hot-button issue in Florida politics. The likely Democratic nominee for Senate, Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., supports a moratorium on new off-shore drilling in the Gulf and Crist said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it should be halted, at least temporarily.

“It's got to be tabled for sure,” said Crist. “I mean, you know, when I flew over it on Tuesday and I saw the magnitude of this thing, it was, it was unbelievable.  And then I've been here in Pensacola yesterday and again today, and it, it frightens me.  I mean, you know, I think what we have to do is be prepared to handle this thing, do the very best we can, but we've got to be prepared for the worst.  And that means going to clean energy as quickly as we can, and natural gas.”

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