- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 28, 2016

PURCELLVILLE, Va. | Race injected itself deep into the Republican presidential nomination Sunday after Donald Trump refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of his chief competitors, said that makes him unqualified to lead the GOP into the election.

Speaking in Loudoun County at a rally interrupted by technical difficulties and protesters, Mr. Rubio said Mr. Trump’s refusal to distance himself from some of his more extreme supporters is dangerous for a party trying to reach out to voters it lost in 2008 and 2012.

“We cannot be a party that nominates somebody who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan,” Mr. Rubio said.

Mr. Trump, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said he did not know David Duke, the former KKK leader and white supremacist who has endorsed him, and declined to unilaterally condemn groups without knowing more about them.

Asked specifically about the KKK, he again declined.

“There are groups in there that are totally fine and it would be very unfair,” the billionaire businessman said.

Mr. Rubio has been arguing for the last few days that Mr. Trump is a “con artist” perpetrating a fraud on the GOP. At a candidates debate Thursday, Mr. Rubio pointed to a settlement Mr. Trump paid for having illegally hired foreign workers and to the exclusive South Florida country club Mr. Trump owns, which relies on foreign workers to staff it during difficult seasons.

The attacks are dominating the debate, but analysts wonder whether it’s too late in the primary race, with Mr. Trump having won three of the first four states to vote, and leading in the polls in most of the dozen states that vote in primaries or caucuses on Tuesday.

Virginia is one of those states, and Mr. Rubio traveled there Sunday. But his first event in Loudoun had several hiccups.

At one point his microphone went out for a minute, leaving him trying to shout his message to a crowd of thousands packed in the gym at Patrick Henry College.

Then he faced protests, including a man who tried to steal the limelight at Mr. Rubio’s event by holding up a sign accusing the senator of being an empty suit.

Mr. Rubio handled it with humor: “Marco Rubio empty suit? My suit wasn’t made in China, it’s not a Trump suit.”

He then joked that the man was a graduate of Trump University — an education program that’s become controversial in recent days after Mr. Rubio said former students are suing to get their money back, arguing it was a scam.

“The only thing they got was a certificate that was meaningless,” Mr. Rubio said Sunday. “What he did to them is what he’s doing to voters now.”

“These are not personal attacks,” he said. “These are facts about the person that is asking for our vote, that is asking us to entrust him with the future of the Republican Party and the future of the United States of America.”

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