Rubio tells Texans he’s the one to make America great again

Marco Rubio is interrupted by a heckler

Presidential candidate Marco Rubio is interrupted by a heckler during a Dallas campaign appearance.
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Presidential candidate Marco Rubio is interrupted by a heckler during a Dallas campaign appearance.

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio knows what he will do on his first day in the White House, if elected president:

Uphold the Constitution, beef up national security, repeal President Barack Obama’s executive actions and the healthcare plan known as Obamacare, revoke the Iranian nuclear deal and begin to rebuild the military.

That’s just for starters.

Rubio, 44, a U.S. senator from Florida, says the actions are necessary to save the country.

“The truth is America is still a great country,” he told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 700 on Wednesday afternoon at the Westin Park Central hotel in Dallas. “But it is in ... decline.

“We are not a weak country. We just have a weak president. … And this year we are going to change that.”

Rubio, one of many candidates in the GOP presidential field, is the latest to head to North Texas, hoping to claim a large portion of Texas’ delegates in the March 1 presidential primary.

He came in third in a recent poll of Republicans and GOP-leaning registered voters. Donald Trump was on top with 35 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 18 percent and Rubio with 13 percent, according to the NBC poll that ended Jan. 3.

Wednesday’s crowd cheered for Rubio, especially when the audience tried to drown out a heckler. They loudly chanted “Marco! Marco! Marco!” as the protester was escorted out of the hotel ballroom.

Democrats say Rubio wouldn’t be good for the state or the country.

“Texans know and understand the value of hard work. Nothing comes easy, and we work hard for what we’ve got,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director with the Texas Democratic Party.

“Rubio has gone AWOL from the Senate to campaign for his presidential bid, missing important votes on taxpayers’ dime,” he said. “He is ripping Floridians off and Texans can’t afford someone like Marco Rubio as the next president of our country.”

Immigration plan

When it comes to an immigration plan, “there is no one running for president who understands” better than him, Rubio said.

Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba before he was born, said he grew up in a community of migrants and still lives in one.

But through the years, the issue of immigration — and how to deal with it — has changed.

“We now have a radical, apocalyptic, jihadist group … that is trying to use our system against us … to recruit people to come here,” he said. “When I am president, … if we don’t know 100 percent for sure who you are, and why you want to come, we aren’t going to be able to let you in.”

The world has changed. Everyone locks their doors. Do you hate the people outside your home? You lock your doors because you love the people inside your home.

GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio

Under his leadership, Rubio said, sanctuary cities will lose federal funding. And, he said, the country will need to move forward with putting in 700 miles of wall and fencing, along with hiring border agents and adding technology “not just because people are trying to cross but because drugs are also trying to cross.”

“We are going to bring illegal immigration under control,” he said.

And, Rubio said, he’s ready to rebuild the military because “when I’m president, we are going to have a real war on terror.”

Rubio also said he will encourage a constitutional convention of the states to enact amendments for federal term limits and a balanced budget.

Trek to Texas

Before Wednesday’s rally, Rubio announced his Texas leadership team: Republican state Reps. James Frank of Wichita Falls and Larry Gonzales of Round Rock and former state Reps. Linda Harper-Brown of Irving and Martha Wong of Houston.

“Marco’s conservative ideas will help decrease the size and scope of government so that more Texans can enjoy the freedoms needed to achieve the American dream,” Frank said.

After the rally, Rubio headed to a fundraiser at the home of former Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, where attendees were expected to include well-known Dallas Republican benefactors Harlan Crow and Roy Bailey.

Also on Wednesday, Trump announced an expanded presence in Texas, four new hires to boost grassroots efforts and oversee different areas of the state.

“I love the people of Texas and I am proud to have such a strong team in place in this important state as we work together to Make America Great Again,” Trump said in a statement.

‘The one for me’

Nancy Wear, 50, of Flower Mound was excited to see Rubio in person for the first time.

“I love Marco Rubio,” she said. “He’s so charismatic. I love his message. He’s so pro-life and pro-Second Amendment.

“Marco is the one for me. He’s the one who can beat Hillary.”

Kit Campbell, 72, drove in from Tyler, hoping the event would help him figure out whom to vote for.

I’ll vote for anybody but Hillary.

Kit Campbell, a Tyler, Texas, man who drove in for Rubio’s rally

“I think he’s an interesting guy,” he said. “If other Republican candidates show up, I’ll see them too. I’ll vote for anybody but Hillary.”

James Scott, 73, of Plano said he has no doubt that Rubio is right for the country.

“I think Marco has the incredible ability to get the conservative message across,” he said. “We haven’t had anybody like that since Reagan.”

But he said he and others know that Rubio could have a rocky road in Texas — and throughout the country. But it will get easier, he believes, once the field of candidates is winnowed down some.

No matter what, Joellyn Eubank said, Rubio is her choice.

“We like Marco’s vitality,” said Eubank, 72, of Dallas, who said she worked in Tarrant County for decades. “He’s young and charismatic.

“He’s the best person for the country. He’s got substance.”

A Republican presidential candidate tells what he hopes to do on his first day in office.

Anna M. Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley