GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, we are coming to you live from Tampa, Florida, where the Republican national convention officially kicked off today. And tonight, we have an all-star lineup of guests -- RNC chair Reince Priebus, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Donald Trump. You're going to hear from them all.
But first, the man who will introduce Governor Mitt Romney on Thursday night, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, joins us. Good evening, sir.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: Before I get to the big news about -- about Thursday night, I thought you might want to have a thought on this hurricane.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, it has sort of just grazed this state, but nonetheless.
RUBIO: It's -- first of all, it's just unbelievable that on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, we're seeing such a repeat of it. Hopefully, the storm won't be anything as close to that. And I'm confident the folks up there have done everything they can over the last seven years to improve their capacity.
You know, Florida has been battered in the storms in the past. One year, we had five. I think it was in 2005. So we know what -- how impactful this can be. We pray for those folks and we just hope for the best. And we'll see what happens.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we have -- you know, we have the sort of awkward -- we're trying to do both stories at once and trying to figure out, you know, how to balance our time.
So let me turn to the other story we're trying to cover. And Thursday night, are you ready?
RUBIO: Yes. You know, I think it's an exciting moment for our country. The next three days are going to be exciting. Obviously, the storm is something we're all concerned about and we'll watch that very carefully and make -- that's the first priority, is the lives and well- being of people that are in the way.
But we're also having an election in November and we want to talk about what that choice is. And that's what Thursday night's going to be about for me, is making clear two things. Number one is that the man I'm presenting, the next president of the United States, Mitt Romney, is an extraordinary person. I mean, his job as a father and as a husband and as a grandfather, as a leader in his church and in his community, what he did in the Olympics, what he did as governor -- this is a successful person, not just a successful political figure.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you -- how do you persuade the Hispanic vote? Not just the Cuban-American but the Hispanics in other sections of the economy because...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... country because that -- that has been a historically, at least in recent elections, a Democrat vote and -- I mean, that's a vote that Governor Romney would love to have.
RUBIO: But you know, that goes to the heart of what this election is about. This election in many ways is a decision about what government's role should be in our economy and how prosperity is created. The president thinks prosperity is created when the government goes out and spends money. We've tried that for three-and-a-half years. It failed.
It's been tried before. This is an old idea. It's failed every time it's been tried. In fact, T's one of the ideas that people come here to get away from. On the other hand, Mitt Romney's belief is that prosperity is created when people have the confidence to invest their own money.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that may be what he believes, but right now, the Hispanics think that they have the Dream Act with President Obama with the executive order. And it may be that, you know, if you're so convinced of that and Governor Romney's so convinced that there is a better way to do, how do you actually reach them...
RUBIO: Well, look...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... and penetrate them to get the vote?
RUBIO: No, but that's the immigration issue, and that's an important issue and it matters a lot. and certainly, when you talk about immigration to Americans of Hispanic descent, it's not some theoretical, statistical issue. They know people who are being impacted by this.
But there are also real economic issues at play here. I mean, you look at unemployment rate in the Hispanic community, it is significantly higher than the general population. The Hispanic community is as entrepreneurial as any community in this country. And entrepreneurship, the starting of your own business, has become harder under this president.
You know, when a president is running for reelection, they're usually bragging about how much better things are they were four years ago. This president doesn't want to talk about his record. He wants to attack Mitt Romney.
He wants to -- you saw this interview he did two days ago, which was just an unbelievable, you know, negative assault on Mitt Romney, as opposed to bragging about his own record and his accomplishments. So I think that's going to be very clear this week, and I think that's going to appeal to all Americans.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you just a tad bit nervous?
RUBIO: You know, I don't know about nervous, is the right word. Certainly, I want to do a good job because it's an honor to be picked, and to do it in my home state and in front of so many friends and supporters is obviously great.
But at the end, this convention is not about me, it's about Mitt Romney and about the opportunity to present to our country a man who, if elected president, will really change the direction of this country in a positive way.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about Congressman Paul Ryan? What do you want -- what do you think is important for him to get across on Wednesday night?
RUBIO: Well, I just hope -- I hope people get to know Paul Ryan the way I've gotten to know him the last year-and-a-half, when he supported me when I ran and working with him in Congress a little bit. He's an exciting person. He's an exciting figure. But he's also an ideas person.
And I think -- I hope that comes across on Wednesday night. I believe that it will because I think when people get to know Paul Ryan, just in the 15, 20, 30 minutes they're going to have with him on Wednesday night, they're going to be even more excited about him as our vice president and as the second name on the ticket.
VAN SUSTEREN: And to win Florida? What's going to happen here in Florida?
RUBIO: Well, I think Florida is very much like the rest of the country. I mean, people are concerned about the future. They're concerned about the economy.
You know, you look at -- you meet people every day that were supposed to be retiring now and had to go out and find a job or people that thought these were going to be their prime earning years, and instead they got laid off or kids that just finished college but can't find a job in the field they studied for.
These are the people we're going to be talking to in this convention because it is for them that the free enterprise system is so important.
VAN SUSTEREN: Medicare -- is that...
RUBIO: It is.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, that's -- I mean, that's important across the country, but particularly with the vote here I imagine it's important...
RUBIO: It's very important, you know, three million people in Florida on Medicare. One of them is my mom. And I can tell you anyone who's in favor of leaving Medicare the way it is right now is in favor of bankrupting it. Medicare -- we need to save Medicare.
And Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have a plan to do it. And the way they would do it does not change Medicare at all for people that are on Medicare today, but says that people in my generation, Paul Ryan's generation, our Medicare's going to look different.
That's something we should be willing to do in exchange for keeping our parents' and our grandparents' Medicare the way it is. After everything they've done for us, that's the least we can do.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I know you said this is about Governor Romney on Thursday, and indeed, it is. But isn't there a small part of you that hopes that your 5th grade teacher is watching, the kids you went to high school with, to see what -- to see what -- you know, to see you're doing? I mean, come on! It's really fun, isn't it?
RUBIO: Well, yes. They'll say, if that guy can make it, anybody can make it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are they going over your speech at all, or do you write this yourself or...
RUBIO: No, I write my own stuff, always have. And I actually very rarely write speeches. I'll write an outline of notes of things I want to say. So I rarely read from a prepared text. So a few months ago, I had a speech where I forgot the last page. I hope that doesn't happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed, I don't. And how much time you got to do?
RUBIO: They wanted about 15 minutes, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: And you're ready?
RUBIO: Yes, I hope so.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, well, Senator, good luck. We're going to be watching. I think everybody's going to be watching.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean to put pressure on you...
RUBIO: No, I don't...
VAN SUSTEREN: There's a lot of pressure right now for you!
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Senator, thank you.
RUBIO: Thank you.