Republican Rubio calls 2016 White House race a ‘generational choice’ – Reuters


MIAMI (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida plans to enter the 2016 race for the White House by urging voters to make a “generational choice” for leadership that takes the country in new directions, according to excerpts of his announcement speech.

“Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past,” Rubio, 43, says in the excerpts released before his formal announcement.

“We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them,” he says. “This election is not just about what laws we will pass. It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be.”

Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants who rode the anti-establishment Tea Party wave of 2010 to national prominence, will announce his presidential bid later on Monday with a speech at Miami’s Freedom Tower. That is where thousands of Cuban exiles fleeing the communist-run island in the 1960s were first registered by U.S. authorities.

Earlier in the day, Rubio told top donors on a conference call he was “uniquely qualified” to represent the Republican Party in the 2016 race and criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as a leader from yesterday, a source familiar with the call said.

Rubio’s relative youth contrasts with Clinton, who is 67 and has been on the national political scene for more than 20 years, initially as first lady and later as a U.S. senator and then secretary of state.

Rubio’s call for new leadership also could be seen as an attempt to step out of the shadows of his political mentor, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Rubio likely will compete for donors and endorsements with Bush, who has been lining up support for a White House bid but has not yet formally entered the race.

IMMIGRATION LIKELY STICKING POINT

Rubio will be the third Republican to formally announce a White House bid, following Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Rubio’s support registers in single digits in opinion polls of the likely contenders in a Republican presidential field that could double from current levels. But aides believe Rubio, who was on 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s short list for vice president, will rise when voters take a closer look at him.

Rubio will be competing for the limelight with Clinton, who grabbed worldwide media attention with the declaration of her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in a video announcement on Sunday.

The former secretary of state will hit the campaign trail in Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday. Iowa holds the kickoff contest in the parties’ presidential nominating process early next year.

While he owes his success to the Tea Party movement, Rubio also has drawn support from more traditional party elements as well as the libertarian-leaning network assembled by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

His effort to overhaul the United States’ immigration system could be a sticking point for Republican conservatives, many of whom view any move to grant legal status to undocumented workers as “amnesty.”

Rubio worked with Senate Democrats to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill in 2013 that would have bolstered border security and guest-worker programs with a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country illegally. The measure died in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Rubio now says any immigration reforms must be passed piece by piece, with border security coming first, a position more in line with other Republican lawmakers. But he talks frequently about the central role immigrants play in revitalizing the United States.

Rubio also is expected to make a muscular foreign policy a focal point of his campaign, portraying himself as the Republican most ready to handle threats to America in a chaotic world.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Christian Plumb and Leslie Adler)