Rubio comes out swinging at packed Roanoke College rally

Push not enough to win primary

Marco Rubio greets the Roanoke College crowd on Sunday night. Photos by Kelsey Bartlett.
Marco Rubio greets the Roanoke College crowd on Sunday night. Photos by Kelsey Bartlett.
Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio brought the heat during his Sunday night Roanoke College appearance, where he addressed a crowd of around 2,600 in an attempt to slow Donald Trump’s momentum in the southwestern portion of the state.

A Roanoke College poll that was released on Friday predicted Trump to win on Super Tuesday among likely Republican voters on March 1, when over 10 states states held their primaries.

The poll proved to be correct, as Trump won Virginia during the Tuesday primary.

In Salem City, Trump commanded 35 percent of the vote, as Rubio trailed behind at 29.97 percent. Roanoke County was similar. There, Trump earned 34.58 percent of the vote, compared to Rubio’s 28.64 percent. Ted Cruz came in at third in both locations.

The sweltering heat in the school’s C. Homer Bast Center during Rubio’s presentation didn’t stop attendees from packing into the gym, where campaign signs were used as makeshift fans, and a steady flow of Christian rock and country music drifted through the speakers.

Roanoke College junior Zachary Wright and senior Ashlyn Anderson said they have supported Rubio since the beginning of his campaign, and were excited to learn he was coming to their school.

Roanoke College senior Kyle Wolf passes out campaign signs at the rally.
Roanoke College senior Kyle Wolf passes out campaign signs at the rally.
“I’ve watched a lot of the debates, and he’s definitely my favorite candidate,” Anderson said. “He’s really well spoken and energetic.”

Wright said though he feels Roanoke College students typically lean left, events like the packed Rubio rally show he is not alone in his conservative convictions.

“I’m definitely glad it ended up being Rubio instead of Trump. He unites people, unlike Trump, who is more of a divider,” Wright said. “Also, I think conservative policy works, and I think college students really need to realize that.”

Rubio wasted no time attempting to set himself apart from Trump, who visited Radford University on Monday after a brief rumor he would visit Salem. Rubio deemed him a “con artist,” and threw plenty of criticisms at him throughout the night. While some were in favor of Rubio’s crass newfound demeanor, others seemed disappointed in the perceived immaturity of it all.

Political correctness was nowhere in sight as he slung insults at Trump, firing back at the candidate who he said often mocks his height. From comments on hairstyles and spray tans, to the size of Trump’s hands in comparison to his body, Rubio didn’t seem afraid to fight dirty.

“You know what they say about men with small hands,” Rubio said with a smirk. “You can’t trust ‘em.”

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said unlike Trump, he knows what it is like to struggle from paycheck to paycheck, and said he wants to revive the American dream.

Former Virginia Gov. George Allen introduced Rubio, and pointed to Republican hero Ronald Reagan as an example of the type of leadership he feels Rubio would implement.

“This is a time for choosing,” Allen said, referencing a famous Reagan speech by the same name.

Marco Rubio supporters cheer him on during the Sunday night rally.
Marco Rubio supporters cheer him on during the Sunday night rally.
Rubio also had plenty to say about Democratic hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, calling Sanders a “nice guy, but a socialist,” and pointing out that Clinton is under FBI investigation for using a personal email server while serving as U.S. Secretary of State.

“Friends don’t let friends vote for people under FBI investigation, friends don’t let friends vote for socialists, and friends don’t let friends vote for con artists,” Rubio said.

Rubio said he would act to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office, and promised to be a watchdog for veterans struggling with the VA Medical Center.

“If you nominate me, we will win this election,” Rubio said. “We will unite this party and we will grow it.”

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