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On N.H. Swing, Rubio Parries Questions on Immigration, Personal Finances - and Darth Vader

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Allegra Boverman for NHPR
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Marco Rubio mingles with supporters after filing for the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Thursday morning

When Marco Rubio sat down for a  discussion  with young professionals at St. Anselm College the issues were mostly light:

Does Rubio hit the gym to wind down after debates? No.

What kind of food might he serve at a party? Tex-Mex.

And how does the Florida Senator feel about Star Wars?

“I used to hate Darth Vader, now I kind of feel a little bit sorry for him, because now I know what he went through to get to that point. And it’s probably the most fascinating character in the whole movie because it started out with this individual with a tremendous amount of talent and promise. Then something went wrong, something really went wrong, really went bad and he got really nasty. “

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Credit Josh Rogers for NHPR
Rubio signs a copy of his book for a supporter at an event for young professionals in N.H. on Wednesday

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Things have gone well for Marco Rubio of late. He’s rising in the polls and nasty is about the last thing he’s been pitching to voters. When asked yesterday by reporters to respond to criticism from fellow candidate Donald Trump, Rubio mostly begged off.

“Look, I mean when Donald comes across a poll he doesn’t like he gets weird and does all these strange sorts of things, and that’s fine. If that’s the campaign he wants to run he’s entitled to it, but I’m going to continue to talk about the future of American, that’s why I ran for President.”

When Rubio addressed voters, he offered his own life story, a son of immigrants who became a U.S. Senator at 39, as evidence America can remain a land of exceptional opportunity. And Rubio talked up his youth as proof he’d be a President attuned to the challenges of the moment.

“And the world has dramatically changed just in the last five years. This is the industrial revolution happening every five years, not every 50 or 100. And so it is important for us to have leaders who understand this, that understand that you can be a conservative, but you’ve got to apply those principles to the issues of the 21st century, which invoices global competition, rapid changes in innovation and a need to modernize higher education. “

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Rubio speaks to the press after filing for the N.H. Primary at the Statehouse in Concord

Rubio’s skill as a communicator was on display during this trip to New Hampshire. He’s been here 14 times, less than many of his rivals.  

Rubio drew an overflow crowd last night when he paid a visit to River University in Nashua.

There Rubio spelled out conservative stances on education, welfare reform and religious freedom. Rubio also parried questions on issues his rivals see as weaknesses, like Rubio’s past support for comprehensive immigration reform, and his spotty Senate attendance record.

“While I don’t actually hate being in the Senate, I’m frustrated by the Senate, its it a frustrating place, because we are not making progress on any major issues. But it didn’t take me long to realize that this country cannot change direction without the right president.”

And by the time Rubio stopped talking more than a few in Nashua seemed persuaded that Rubio stands a chance of being President.

“I think he’s excellent.”

“He gets it.”

Georgia and Bob Seeman traveled from Keene to see Rubio. They  say they’ve observed all the major GOP candidates in person at least once.  They arrived in Nashua unsold on Rubio, but that’s not how they left.

“I mean I think tonight he just clarified that he’s got the vision. He’s got the vision, the kind of vision that you want to have in a president.’

“I would be comfortable.”

Marco Rubio, and everyone else vying for the New Hampshire primary has 95 days to make more local voters feel comfortable. Rubio’s next step came Thursday morning, when he filed his candidacy at the secretary of state’s office.

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