After a redeeming second-place finish in South Carolina, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio received a new boost Sunday with the endorsement of fellow senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
In a statement, Tillis compared both his and Rubio’s “humble beginnings” and the fact that they are both first-term senators and former state House speakers.
"Marco lived the American Dream, and he will ensure that each and every one of us can do the same," Tillis said in the statement, adding Rubio "has the unique capability of drawing new people into the party, which is critically important in a swing state like North Carolina."
North Carolina will hold its GOP primary on March 15 along with four other states, including Rubio's home state of Florida.
North Carolina is the 9th largest state by population and its general election voters narrowly chose Mitt Romney in 2012 and President Barack Obama in 2008.
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With Tillis endorsement, Rubio is now focusing on the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday – the first time Republican candidates will face a significant Latino population. The contest is a homecoming of sorts for Rubio, who spent part of his childhood living in Nevada.
On his way to the Silver State, on Sunday the freshman senator made campaign stops in Tennessee and Arkansas, where he invoked immigrants and the nation’s history with slavery.
He cast himself as his party's most electable candidate because he can help grow the GOP beyond its traditional base of older, white voters. He drew from his parents' story as Cuban immigrants during a Sunday afternoon rally in suburban Nashville.
"Americans are the descendants of go-getters," Rubio said.
He continued, "Americans are the descendants of people who came here whether it was two centuries ago or two years ago because they refused to live in a society that told them they could not be who they wanted to be. America is the descendants of slaves who overcame that horrifying institution to claim their stake to the American dream."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.