Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who reportedly will seek the presidency in 2016, offers students — and by extension, the nation — hints of his ideology and ideas in a Miami college classroom twice a week.
Rubio teaches a political science course at Florida International University, a mostly commuter school in west Miami.
Inside the classroom, "there's no sniping at rivals, Democratic or Republican, and Rubio is as likely to discuss Bill Clinton's accomplishments as those of Ronald Reagan, whom the senator grew up idolizing," according to Politico
writer Marc Caputo.
Rubio discusses with his students the vulnerabilities in both parties and dissects the demographics of the electorate.
"For every extra Democratic-leaning Hispanic voter added to the rolls in Florida, Virginia or Georgia, Rubio mentions the counterbalance of Republican-leaning white blue-collar voters in Ohio, Wisconsin or Michigan," Caputo writes, noting that Rubio confronts head-on the diversity issue that presents a problem for the predominantly white GOP.
"Basically, Barack Obama got eight out of 10 votes from the fastest-growing groups in America," he tells the class. "And Mitt Romney got 90 percent of his votes from the group that is diminishing in terms of its overall percentage of the population. And from that, political scientists and other political observers will say, 'boy, Republicans are doomed. You just take that out 20 years, 15 years, 10 years and that's the end of Republicans as a viable national party.' That's what some people will argue.
"I would encourage you to challenge that thought."
Known around campus as Marco, Rubio is a popular presence at FIU. Student Ed Cabrera, 22, identifies as a Democratic-leaning independent, but told Politico he'd vote for Rubio because he is fair and reasonable and not driven by partisan politics.
"Marco knows a lot," Cabrera said. "You don't get the sense that he's a Republican or Democrat. And you don't get the sense that he's a senator. I never got the sense he was trying to push us to one side or another. He was unbiased."
Rubio schools undergrads in "the political importance of drawing voters from an opponent's base of support," something he credits President Bill Clinton with doing by backing welfare reform and balanced budgets. President Ronald Reagan did something similar in 1980, according to Rubio.
Rubio does not campaign or offer "detailed policy prescriptions in class," according to Caputo, but he does "borrow heavily from his new campaign-season tome, 'American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.' "
Rubio deftly presents an informed and insightful big-picture view of the Republican Party, Caputo said.
He tells students that he can see a day when Hispanics flock to the GOP because they are middle class and will identify more with the party's "conservative messaging on taxes and private enterprise."
Economics, he said, would trump the immigration issue.
Late last month, around the same time Rubio staffers said their boss instructed them to prepare for a presidential bid, Rubio surged in the polls
. He went from 6 percent to 13 percent in the Zogby poll, placing him in a dead heat with his friend, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and just three points below former GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who has since announced he will not run again.
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