Rubio says first debate will 'crystalize' the choice

LAS VEGAS -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged Republicans on Tuesday to calm down over President Obama's lead in the polls, and predicted in an exclusive interview with Fox News that Mitt Romney will have a strong first debate by offering "solutions Obama has failed to do."

Asked if he agreed with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's declaration that the first of three debates in on Wednesday will be a "game change" for Romney, Rubio said yes because the nominee is superb in this format and will get his first real chance to take the fight directly to the president.

"I think he's a great debater," said Rubio. "I think more importantly, he has a great message. I think tomorrow night people are going to get to see someone who can be president, a very presidential person, a very serious person who's going to have real solutions that apply to their daily lives. Tomorrow night we're going to see someone who is going to be able to explain how it is that what he stands for is going to make their lives better.

Rubio said seeing the two men on the same stage will "really begin to crystallize what the choice is that they have" for voters who have had only a passing interest in the race thus far.

"For everyday people, they're going to tune in, it's the first time Romney will speak directly to them with no filter," Rubio said, adding the pitch to voters should be very simple and direct for Romney, as the campaign reaches it final few weeks.

"We can't afford four more years of Barack Obama -- we can barely afford four more months," said Rubio. "If we have four more years of Barack Obama, we can't wait four years for our economy to start growing. We can't wait four years for people to find jobs. We can't wait four years for our houses to be worth what we paid for them. We can't wait four years for our kids to be able to find jobs when they graduate from college. We can't wait for four more years. We can't afford it."

Rubio added that the GOP side knew from the beginning "we weren't going to win by 10 or 15 points," so he thinks his allies should relax over various polls suggesting the president has opened a lead in key states like Ohio and here in Nevada.

"We're not going to get down because there's a couple of polls that come out that show us maybe behind in a few states," Rubio said after headlining a Romney campaign event aimed at turning out the Hispanic vote along with the nominee's son, Matt Romney, at a Cuban restaurant here near the Vegas Strip. "The bottom line is this is going to be a close race, it'll be decided on Election Day by voters, not by pollsters, not by columnists, not by journalists, and not by pundits," Rubio said. "And voters still have a choice to make. And it's an important one."

Asked about undecided voters in one of the hardest-hit states from the foreclosure crisis who still are not sure if they can support Romney despite the vast economic challenges here, Rubio said he is not surprised this is still a tough battle for the GOP nominee.

"This country is having a very honest and serous debate about role government should be playing," said Rubio. "In the end though, I believe they're going to choose the path of limited government and free enterprise, and that's what we stand for. So there's going to be a thousand polls, there's going to be ebb and flow."

Ed Henry currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief White House correspondent. He joined the network in June 2011. His latest book is "42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story."