I went to hear Marco Rubio speak, for two important journalism reasons:
1. The event was near my hotel.
2. It was in a bar.
Rubio is a classic only-in-America story: The son of Cuban immigrants, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida at the age of 12, and now, at age 14, he is running for president of the United States.
Rubio’s big rival at the moment is Jeb Bush. They used to be friends, but now they hate each other, because they are both vying for the coveted role of Establishment Republican Who Will Probably Not Get Nominated. The other hot Republican battle is between front-runners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who also used to get along but now detest each other to the point where there may be, if they can work out their schedules, a duel between their top aides.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have also reached the stage of intense mutual loathing. And we’re just getting started! By the time we actually elect a president, he or she will be so filled with rage that I wouldn’t be surprised if he or she launched a unilateral nuclear attack on Belgium just to let off steam.
But getting back to the Rubio event: There was a good-sized crowd of Iowans packing the bar, and when Rubio appeared they showed their enthusiasm Iowa-style, by which I mean they applauded politely. Some of them also went “Whoo!” In Miami, there would have been gunfire. It would have been positive, friendly, welcoming gunfire, but still.
Rubio gave a nice speech, coming out strongly in favor of the U.S. Constitution and America in general; he is also for the Future. The Iowans loved him and showed their passion by going “Whoo!” some more. Afterward they crowded around Rubio, jostling each other very politely and posing with him for I would estimate 23,000 selfies.
As Rubio was leaving the bar I spoke with him briefly about my mother-in-law, Celia Kaufman. She is a HUGE Rubio fan, based on his policies and the fact that, in her view, he dresses nicely. She even bought his book. I told Rubio this and asked him if he had any message for my mother-in-law. He answered immediately, with the kind of decisiveness you look for in a commander in chief.
“Tell her, buy more books,” he said.
Before the Rubio event I had an interesting political encounter at my hotel. I went outside to find that my rental car was blocked in its parking space by a major tour bus with the name ROCKY on the outside in enormous letters. I knocked on the bus window and asked if they could please move the bus. I also asked, “Who’s Rocky?”
“I’m Rocky,” said a voice from inside. “And I’m going to be the next president of the United States.”
His name, it turned out, is Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, and he is — stop me if you’ve heard this — a wealthy real-estate tycoon. He really is running for president, and he says he has gotten on the Democratic ballot in a bunch of states, “including American Samoa.” And before you dismiss him as merely a loon, consider this: He is a loon with four buses in Iowa. Also he has a campaign staff of guys wearing ROCKY T-shirts.
Rocky invited me inside his main bus, where he signed one of his T-shirts for me. The T-shirt has his website (rocky2016.com) and the following inspirational campaign slogan: “Happy Holidays!” Rocky wrote my name on the shirt and drew four happy faces, then asked me my birth date. He then did some kind of numerology calculation to reach my number.
“You have a beautiful number,” he said. “Four.”
“Huh,” I said, and I meant it.
We were interrupted by a confrontation between the bus driver and a police officer, who said the bus was blocking the hotel entrance and had to move. Rocky, swinging into executive action, went forward to handle the situation. This resulted in the following exchange between him and the officer:
ROCKY: Let me introduce myself. I am going to be the next president of the United States.
OFFICER: Fine by me. But you have to move the bus.
I took that opportunity to leave, but I can definitely say that Rocky made an impression on me. And while I don’t know where he stands on the issues, I do know that I have found a man who has the kind of leadership qualities I look for in the nation’s chief executive.
I am referring, of course, to the police officer.
Join Dave & Carl
What: Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry and award-winning columnist Carl Hiaasen will discuss the 2016 presidential election campaign. They’ll discuss other topics, too — such as why is Florida so weird — and attempt to answer audience questions, provided they don’t involve math.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1
Where: Miracle Theater, Coral Gables
Register online: davecarlelection2016.bpt.me