CEDAR RAPIDS — Speaking to hundreds packing a Best Western hotel Sunday, Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio seemed to have his sights set on the general election, lobbing his attacks on Democrats — that party’s prospective nominees and President Barack Obama.
“Hillary Clinton has moved so far left on so many issues that she’s going to have a lot of trouble against me when I’m our nominee,” the Florida senator said during a town hall at which he laid out his aspirations, took questions and stumped for support.
One audience member asked Rubio about political divides, not just between the parties but among Republicans. Rubio answered by first pointing to Democrats.
“I would say the Democratic Party is in much more trouble because they have a socialist as their leading candidate right now,” Rubio said, referring to Sen. Bernie Sanders. He topped Clinton in a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll among likely Iowa caucusgoers, although Clinton leads in some other polls.
“I think Bernie Sanders is an excellent candidate for president … of Sweden,” Rubio said. “I like Sweden. I’m not anti-Swedish, and I’m not anti-Norwegian. I just want us to be America.”
Addressing a split Republican Party, Rubio said it was a “diverse party.”
“We have a lot of differences of opinion on a bunch of different things,” he said. “But I believe that we are a party that continues to be unified around the principals that our government should be limited, that free enterprise should be what drives our economy, that you should all have individual liberties to pursue your hopes and dreams, and that the world is a safer and better place when America is the strongest military power in the world.”
If Republicans lose, he said, policies enacted under the Obama administration would become virtually impossible to reverse.
“We are on the verge of becoming the first Americans ever that fail to leave their kids better off than themselves,” Rubio said. “And I want to point to a moment in time seven years ago when I believe this whole process of decline accelerated. It was with the election of Barack Obama.”
Rubio’s comments were met with applause — sometimes standing ovations — and came a day after the Des Moines Register endorsed him as the GOP nominee. The paper’s editorial board endorsed Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
A Real Clear Politics average of polls showed Rubio with 12.2 percent support in Iowa. The CNN/ORC poll released Thursday shows Rubio with his highest yet level of support among likely caucusgoers in Iowa — with 14 percent, compared with Donald Trump (37 percent) and Ted Cruz (26 percent).
Rubio didn’t level much criticism against his GOP rivals but did stress he would be the most likely of them to win in the general election.
On Sunday, Rubio spelled out some of his plans.
“My attorney general and the people that I appoint to the courts are going to be people that defend the Second Amendment, not try to undermine it,” he said. “And they’re going to be people that defend our religious liberties, not attack them.”
Then, Rubio said, he’d repeal “every single one of Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders.”
“On my first day in office, the world is going to know that the United States is once again firmly on Israel’s side against Isreal’s enemies,” he said. “And you know the main reason why they’re going to know that? Because on my first day in office, I am going to cancel Barack Obama’s deal with Iran.”
He said he would end the Affordable Care Act and be tough on immigration.
“As the son and grandson of immigrants, I can speak with authority when I say this: Enforcing our immigration law is not anti-immigrant,” he said.