Plenty of presidential candidates have gone to college campuses to score points with students but Marco Rubio took a different approach in a Cedar Falls campaign stop Thursday. (Oct. 1)
“I will be your vocational education president,” told a crowd of roughly 500 at Mudd Advertising, a markets my firm based in Cedar Falls, where the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College exist.
Rubio said the nation’s higher education system is obsolete and doesn’t work anymore, he said. While saying there is a need for students to graduate with degrees that lead to jobs, he said educating students in trade areas and manufacturing skills is important.
“A welder makes a lot more money than a Greek philosopher,” Rubio said.
“This election is a generational choice about what kind of country we want to see in the 21st Century,” Rubio said.
Dylan Keller, a University of Northern Iowa student pursuing a master’s degree in history, said Rubio, 44, appealed to him.
“I think Rubio is the X-factor in the campaign,” Keller said. “There’s a generation that needs to step up and take less and to ensure more for the future generations, and he had that tone, that rhetoric, tonight.”
However, Keller said he strongly supports another candidate — John Kasich.
Rubio delivered a speech that focused on a conservative call for a less-regulated private sector, specifically in healthcare, business and the environment.
For example, Rubio said he supports the practice of fracking, which is not done in Iowa, although fracking sand is mined in Clayton County in the state’s northeast corner.
“I believe we need to be able to utilize all of our energy resources,” he said. “Fracking has allowed us to have access to natural gas and oil deposits that aren’t just important to our economy, but to our geopolitical advantage.”
Rubio spoke in depth in Cedar Falls about his Cuban heritage. His family was poor in Cuba, and his grandfather died of tuberculosis at the age of 46. His father dropped out of school at the age of seven to work and never returned to his education.
Rubio’s parents moved to the United States, where Rubio said they were able to work into the middle class. With this he justified his faith and the so-called American Dream, a prominent talking point.
Rubio said the United States has an immigration problem. Immigration can be controlled with programs such as E Verify, “fencing walls in key sections of the border” and preventing work visa overstays, he said.
“Over 40 percent of people here illegally come legally,” Rubio said of visa overstays, although he referred to a report that relies upon data that is at least 10 years old.
Rubio expressed respect for the other Republican nominees. “We have some high-quality candidates; the Democrats can’t even come up with one,” he said.
It was his only explicit mention of the Democratic presidential candidates.