Sen. Marco Rubio knows he’s in Donald Trump’s crosshairs, but says he’s more focused on getting his message across to American voters than to spend energy on the real estate mogul.
In an interview with Fox News Latino, Rubio, a Florida Republican, said that he didn’t think Trump’s offensive remarks about Latinos would alienate the electorate from the GOP. At the same time, he said, Trump has to be held accountable for his controversial comments and positions.
Rubio expressed exasperation over the billionaire’s antics, and said the election needed to be focused on substance and details about what policies a candidate would push and try to implement if elected president.
“He’s going to do what he’s going to do,” Rubio said. “This campaign is about serious things.”
He said Trump was a distraction at the beginning of the campaign, but at the end of the day, “this country is facing very significant challenges.”
“For example, we have hundreds of thousands of young American that owe thousands of dollars in student loans; we have a radical jihadist group that is beheading people and is trying to recruit Americans to join their cause,” he said. “We have this terrible deal with Iran and nuclear weapons. We have millions of people in this country living paycheck to paycheck in an economy that is stagnated. These are the issues I hope we are going to start talking about. This is what our people deserve.”
Rubio said he does not believe in using debates to engage in direct barbs with his GOP rivals.
“[Trump] will have to justify whatever he said. If he is the nominee which I don’t believe he will be, but if he is he is going to have to answer for everything he’s said.”
Rubio says that he believes that ultimately, substantive message and outlining proposals for policies are what will drive voters’ choices.
“I have a message that I feel appeals to all Americans and that is that we live in a country where everyone should have the chance to go as far as their talents and their work would take them. That’s what has made America special, that’s the story of my family.”
Rubio, who has had a roller coaster ride in GOP voter polls and recently gained momentum, said he generally doesn’t put a lot of stock on early surveys, and that he was not frustrated by the dip when he lagged behind other GOP candidates, ranking in the single digits.
He says the time to start taking polls more seriously is around February.
Recent polls showed Rubio, who had slipped in a stretch of them after a strong showing in earlier voter surveys, rising to fourth place at 11 percent behind real estate mogul Donald Trump, who got 24 percent, Carly Fiorina, 15 percent, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 14 percent.
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.