- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio signaled Monday that he is closing in on a presidential run, saying that has scheduled a big announcement in Miami in two weeks to disclose his political future.

Mr. Rubio has given every indication he will mount a bid for the GOP’s nomination, in what’s expected to be a cluttered field of candidates.

“I will announce on April 13 what I am going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Rubio said during an on-set appearance in New York City with “The Five” on Fox News.

Mr. Rubio directed viewers to MarcoRubio.com, where they could sign up for the chance to get tickets to what the website referred to as a “big announcement.”

The Tampa Bay Times on Friday reported that Mr. Rubio had reserved the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami for April 13 — stoking speculation that the iconic building, where immigrants who fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1960s were processed, could serve as a backdrop for the launch of Mr. Rubio’s presidential bid.

The 43-year-old father of four frequently shares the story of his parents, Cuban immigrants who moved to the U.S. in 1956 in search of better economic opportunities — a few years before the revolution brought the communists to power in their home country in 1959.

Mr. Rubio’s allies believe the freshman lawmaker has the fundraising network and political chops to seriously compete for the GOP nomination.

“Ultimately it is going to come down to retail politics and you have someone who has the American story with substance on the issues and the skill to not only to communicate those issues in a compelling way, but connect with voters viscerally,” said Jim Merrill, a senior adviser to Mr. Rubio’s political action committee.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who is the son of a Cuban immigrant father, has already announced his bid for the nomination, and Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is expected to announce his campaign soon.

The latest national polls, as well as surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire, show Mr. Rubio running in the middle of the pack.

The surveys, though, also have found that Mr. Rubio has a strong net-favorability rating.

Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said people have been speculating more about Mr. Rubio’s political plans than any other of the other possible GOP candidates.

“He still has the potential to market himself as someone new — fresh. Even though he is a senator in Washington, he has the potential to market himself as a breath of fresh air,” Mr. Kauffman said. “He has a million dollar smile. He is obviously incredibly bright and he has way to take complex issues, boil them down and explain them in an understandable fashion. I think that will translate well in Iowa.”

Since being elected in 2010, Mr. Rubio has played major roles in debates over immigration and national defense — most recently pushing for more military spending and warning against the Obama administration cutting a nuclear deal with Iran.

“We should never ever take off the table the notion that it may be necessary to conduct some sort of military strike against their nuclear ambition,” he said on Fox. “I am not cheering for that. I am not asking for that today, but I am saying that is a real option because that is how serious the Iranian nuclear threat is.”

Stephen Duprey, a member of the Republican National Committee from New Hampshire, said Mr. Rubio is focused on the issues that voters care about, including the emerging threat of Islamic militants in the Middle East, and would offer voters something strikingly different from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the odds on favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

“Elections are generally about the future rather than the past and Americans tend to vote for the new rather than the old,” Mr. Duprey said. “Senator Rubio contrasts with Secretary Clinton by those two measures arguably better than any other candidate. Beyond that, he can reach Hispanic and Latino voters extremely well — and those voters should be natural Republicans.”

Holly Shulman, spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, panned the idea, saying Mr. Rubio is “no leader and he has no fresh ideas.”

“He has spent the past few years pandering to the Republican base while looking out for his own best interests, instead of those of Florida families. He would do the same to the country if given the chance,” she said.

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