MANCHESTER, New Hampshire—Marco Rubio on Wednesday picked up his feud with rival GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz where he’d left it at Tuesday night’s GOP debate, telling some 250 supporters that he was amazed that “people” in his own party can think the way they do about national security.
“It makes no sense that people in our own party, the party of Reagan, the party of strong national defense, have lined up to support these sorts of things,” he said about reductions in defense spending.
“People like to talk about, ‘I made this promise, that promise, the other promise,’ ” he said later. “Let me tell you the most important promise someone running for president must always make. And that is: I will wake up every day, and spend every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year in the presidency doing everything I can to keep you safe.”
By “people,” of course, Rubio meant Cruz, who at the Las Vegas debate said he voted against a defense authorization bill because of a campaign promise in Texas to vote against any bill that allows the administration to hold U.S. citizens indefinitely without “due process.” Rubio never mentioned Cruz’s name in his remarks, although he made clear who was talking about by mimicking Cruz’s voice, tone, and cadence.
“It’s easy to stand up and say, ‘I will destroy ISIS. I will make the sands in the Middle East glow in the dark,’” Rubio said to laughs.
Later, in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, Rubio went further, comparing Cruz’s approach to foreign policy to President Obama’s because, he said, both allow unfriendly regimes to spring up: “This idea that we can lead from behind, or in the case of Senator Cruz, not lead at all—we just leave more of these vacuums in other parts of the world.”
Cruz, in a news conference in Los Angeles Wednesday, stood by his positions and accused Rubio and his allies of trying to muddy the waters regarding his support for National Security Agency surveillance. “This is another example of the Rubio campaign trying to spread misinformation,” Cruz said. “It was false and it’s knowingly false.”
Rubio and Cruz have both been rising in recent polls, and of late have spent more time and energy attacking each other with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary less than two months away.
Ellen Noyes, a 66-year-old municipal employee from nearby Goffstown, had already decided to support Rubio even before his appearance Wednesday. “He’s sophisticated, but without being over the top about it,” she said.
Jim Dukas, meanwhile, said before Rubio’s arrival that he was still gathering information. Rubio’s work on 2013 immigration legislation—while a deal-breaker to many in the Republican base—was actually a plus for Dukas, an independent voter who said he supported Obama in 2008. “I’m looking for someone who would work with both parties,” he said.
Rubio’s speech, which included the now-standard biography about his immigrant parents, as well as a newer promise to treat U.S. citizens who join the Islamic State as enemy combatants—including interrogation and confinement at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—apparently won over Dukas.
“I thought he was great. He spoke from the heart,” said Dukas, a 44-year-old financial adviser from neighboring Windham. “He’s got my vote.”