Marco Rubio: Future of GOP?

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And meanwhile in Washington conservatives around the country have gathered to take part in the annual CPAC convention. And earlier today the event kicked off with a surprise appearance from former Vice President Dick Cheney who was introduced by his daughter Liz.

Let's watch this.


LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Before big speeches like this one, I ask his opinion, I seek his advice. Well, today instead I brought him with me.


FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: The sky is the limit here. I think 2010 is going to be a phenomenal year.


CHENEY: For the conservative cause. And I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.



HANNITY: All right, Vice President Cheney was not the only one to receive a rock star welcome at the event. Here's former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.


MITT ROMNEY, FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: President Obama instituted the most anti-growth, anti-investment, anti-jobs measures we've seen in our lifetimes. Now he called his agenda ambitious. I call it reckless.

America has been a force for good like no other in the world. And for that we make no apology.


HANNITY: But one of the most anticipated moments today was an appearance by Florida Senate candidate, Marco Rubio.

Let's take a look.


MARCO RUBIO, FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Leaders at the highest levels of our government are undertaking a deliberate and systematic effort to redefine our government, our economy and our country.

Now people, as I said, all across America figured this out over a year ago. They didn't wait for their senator or for their congressman to do something about it. They did it themselves.

They have taken matters into their own hands, from tea parties to the election in Massachusetts.


RUBIO: From tea parties to the election in Massachusetts we are witnessing the single greatest political push-back in American history.


HANNITY: And joining me now is the man himself, Marco Rubio, Senate candidate, Florida.

Marco, welcome to the program. Thanks for being with us.

RUBIO: I'm glad to be with you.

HANNITY: Let's talk about the single greatest push-back in modern history.


HANNITY: Explain that.

RUBIO: It's — actually fairly simple. Americans love their country. They understand that we've got problems in America that have to be fixed but they didn't ask our leaders to change America. They want us to continue to be exceptional.

They realize this country is unlike anything in all of human history and they're not prepared to abandon the free enterprise system, the personal liberties, the limited government that has made us the most exceptional country in the history of mankind.

HANNITY: Well, your campaign is doing phenomenally well. I mean you have a sitting governor, and you're leading by double digits. Something a lot of people didn't anticipate. When I first interviewed you a while back you were not doing this well. What do you think has changed? What's happened?

RUBIO: Well, people are learning about the fact that they now have an option in this race. A lot of people didn't know about us when this race first started. And here's the key, what Americans are looking for and what people in Florida are looking for, is people that are understanding what's happening.

They understand that the folks there involved at the highest levels of government are trying to change our country, are trying to get us to abandon the things that made us exceptional.

Then they want them to come up here and stand up to this agenda and they want us to come up here and offer an alternative.

And I'm the only candidate in this race that's doing that, and as people learn more about us we're gaining in our support.

HANNITY: You know, you started out the speech — and I read in its entirety. I didn't have time to see it all today, but I did read it. You know, and you're talking about the snow storm. And you said it was great because Congress couldn't pass any new laws.

The regulatory agencies couldn't, you know, regulate. The president couldn't suggest new taxes. I mean it sort of captures the mood that people are like happy the government is not there.

So what specifically, though, went wrong? Did the Democrats over- reach? Did they misinterpret the 2008 election results?

RUBIO: You know here's the truth. And I think sometimes we're — we don't — some folks don't like to say it. But there have always been people in American politics that don't believe America is exceptional. There have always been people in American politics that don't believe in the free enterprise system.

And those people won elections over the last four years. They're in charge of Congress. They're in charge of the White House. And they're using those economic downturn, they're using the severe economic downturn as an excuse to implement the status policies that they've longed for all these years.

And because know if they tell us straight out that they don't agree with free enterprise the American people won't support them. So that's really what's happening.

HANNITY: You have a pretty inspiring story to tell. It reminded me a little bit of my own grandparents. They came here in the early part of the last century. Your grandfather came here, what, in 1899?

RUBIO: No, my grandfather was born in 1899. My parents and grandparents came here from Cuba in '58, '59.

HANNITY: OK. But you tell a story about sitting on the porch with your grandfather. I want you to explain it because I think it really — it really describes where you're coming from politically as well by telling the story.

RUBIO: You know, my grandfather used to sit on the porch all the time and talk to me. And tell me stories about baseball and politics and history as he puffed one of his three cigars that he smoked everyday. He lived to be 84, by the way.

And as — one thing he made clear to me. You know I don't remember all the details because it's been 20 some odd years since the last time I sat on that porch with him. He passed away in '84.

But the one thing that he wanted to make clear to me was that because of where he was born, because his parents were poor, there was only so far he could go. And no matter how hard he worked, he was limited before he was even born by the circumstances of his birth.

And he wanted me to know that for me it was different. That there wasn't any dream that I couldn't accomplish if I was willing to work hard. And the reason was simple. Because I happened to be privileged to be a citizen of the single greatest nation in all of human history.

HANNITY: Do you agree with vice president's assessment? Former Vice President Cheney that 2010 is going to be a phenomenal year? Do you agree that...


HANNITY: ... Barack Obama will be a one-term president?

RUBIO: Well, 2012 is far away so I — let me just say I'm hopeful about the second prediction. But about the first, I'm sure.

One of the great things today about being at CPAC is seeing that all over America there are people running for office motivated by the same things that are motivating us in our campaign here in Florida.

And that is this desire to fight for everything that has made America exceptional and ensure that our kids inherit a country as great or greater than the one our parents worked so hard to leave us.

HANNITY: You are running as a solid conservative in your race, and you're doing very, very well in the polls up to right now.

Did the Republican Party get off track? Do you see any dangers for them — you know, a lot of people talking about they can take over the House and Senate. Do you see dangers that could prevent that from happening?

RUBIO: Well only if we don't — we can't just be the opposition. I think we've got to ultimately be the alternative. I think it's important that the Republican Party be identified not just as the people that are not the Democrats, but I think it's important that Republicans also be identified as the folks who have real solutions for how to get our economy growing again.

So broad-based across the board tax cuts and tax simplifications. As the party that has real solid ideas of how to control the growth and spending this explosive growth in our national debt that's threatening our future. And that people identify the Republican Party as the party that takes seriously the threat posed to our nation and the world by radical Islam.

HANNITY: Marco Rubio, thank you for being with us. And lots more to come on this edition of "Hannity".

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