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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: 2012 Election


Location: Unknown


ROWLEY: Freshman Senator Marco Rubio joins Mitt Romney tomorrow in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. Is it a job audition? My exclusive interview with Senator Rubio is next.


RUBIO: Three, four, five, six, seven years from now, if I do a good job as vice president -- I'm sorry.


RUBIO: You guys all got that, right?

RUBIO: As a senator --



CROWLEY: Florida Senator Marco Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party and a Tea Party favorite. His Cuban immigrant background may be appealing to Latinos, a group that Mitt Romney needs if he wants to win the presidential election.

I sat down with Senator Rubio yesterday in Miami.


CROWLEY: First of all, thank you for doing this. RUBIO: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Let me start out with a Florida question that I want you to write large in terms of the Romney campaign.

In 2004 George Bush won 56 percent of the Hispanic vote here in Florida. In 2008, President Obama won 57 percent, so roughly even.

Right now given the positions that Mitt Romney has articulated that he stands for in terms of immigration and other issues, do you see him pulling these kind of numbers this year? RUBIO: I expect him to do better than how he did in 2008, but you have to work on it. And let me explain. I think what those numbers show --

CROWLEY: But right now, today, he couldn't pull those kind of numbers.


RUBIO: Well, the election is not -- well, the election is not today. I think we just got out of a primary cycle and now that's why we're going to have a campaign, where each side's going to tell and try to convince people to vote for them.

I think what those numbers explain is what I know instinctively to be true, and that is that Americans of Hispanic descent, especially in Florida, are swing voters, that they're willing to vote for Republicans or Democrats on an election-by-election cycle. The number one issue in the Hispanic community -- let's be clear -- is economic empowerment.

CROWLEY: Which is a great pitch, but when you look at how Hispanics now feel about it, there's a 40 percent gap. I mean, that beats the gender gap any day, a 40 percent gap between Hispanics who say they favor President Obama versus Mitt Romney.

Candidate Romney has said he's for eVerify, making employers go through a system to check to make sure that their employees have papers. He is for what he calls self-deportation, which is basically making life so miserable for illegals that may be here, you know, no benefits, no jobs, the eVerify, that they self-deport.

He's talked about, of course, supporting a fence. He is against in-state tuition for the children of illegals, illegal children, and he's against the DREAM Act. That just does not seem to me to be an agenda as regards illegal immigrants that can stand and win him votes in the Hispanic community.

RUBIO: But I think that's where people make a mistake. You see, this notion that somehow in order to appeal to Hispanic voters you have to support illegal immigration is just not true.

CROWLEY: Well, but he's -- this comes across, does it not, as anti-immigrant?

(CROSSTALK) RUBIO: And I think Governor Romney is doing a good job of it. Here's been my suggestion. Other than only just talking about what we're against, you have to talk about what you're for. And what I have said consistently is that the Republican Party is and must become and continue to be the pro-legal immigration party. We have to make very clear we support legal immigration.

RUBIO: The vast majority of Americans of Hispanic descent are...

CROWLEY: But the problem is...

RUBIO: Are legally here.

CROWLEY: ... illegal immigration, is it not?

RUBIO: Sure.

CROWLEY: I mean, I think everybody support legal immigration. That's part of the American dream.

RUBIO: It does matter how you talk about the issue. It starts by recognizing that the vast majority of people who are in this country illegally didn't come here to steal from the American government. They are in search of jobs and opportunity. They are doing what most people would do if their children were hungry and their family were suffering.

And that is just about anything you have to do in order to provide for your family. You go down to Homestead, Florida, here and you talk to migrant workers that may be here without documents. They would tell you they wish there was a functional guest worker program, and that the reason why they can't return to their country is they're afraid they won't be able to come back next year when they're needed.

CROWLEY: But honestly they haven't been talking about guest worker programs really so much as they have been talking about fences and in-state tuition being denied to the children of illegals who, as you note in your bill that you're working on, had absolutely -- you know, very little choice in coming here. Is that a sustainable position?

RUBIO: Well, again, you have to have immigration laws. And they have to be enforced. That doesn't mean that because you support the laws that you don't recognize the humanitarian aspects of the immigration problem.

For example, the case of the children that you have just outlined to me is very real. We have a case here in Florida of a young woman who came when she was 4 years old. Here name is Daniela Pelaez. She's the valedictorian of her high school this year. She has a 6.8 GPA. She has been admitted to Dartmouth as a -- to study molecular biology. And she has a deportation order. And the vast majority of Americans would tell you it just doesn't feel right to deport a valedictorian who is here in an undocumented status through no fault of her own. CROWLEY: Your plan that you're working on, as I understand it, suggests that these children of illegal immigrants that were brought here illegally could -- if they went to college and got a degree or to a vocational school and finished those courses, could achieve legal status, correct?

RUBIO: Right.

CROWLEY: Not necessarily citizenship. Although they could go on and get citizenship in the regular order of things, correct?

RUBIO: It allows you to get an immigrant visa through one of the existing visa programs.

CROWLEY: But you could stay in the country...

RUBIO: While you're waiting, that's right.

CROWLEY: ... while you're waiting for your non-immigrant status as well as for U.S. citizenship, correct?

RUBIO: Right.

CROWLEY: The presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, had in this to say in South Carolina.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have indicated I would veto the DREAM Act if provisions included in that act say that people who are here illegally, if they go to school here long enough, get a degree here, that they can become permanent residents. I think that's a mistake. I think we have to follow the law and insist those that have come here illegally ultimately return home, apply, get in line with everyone else.


CROWLEY: Which would seem to put him at odds with what you're suggesting.

RUBIO: No, because -- it doesn't. Because what he's describing is the existing immigration system, and he's describing how the DREAM Act would circumvent that. The way the DREAM Act would circumvent the existing immigration system is it would create a special category that allows you to get into the immigration process.

All this does is award a non-immigrant visa to these kids who find themselves in this very difficult circumstance. At some point in the future they would have no more or no less rights than anybody else in the world. They wouldn't be getting any preferential treatment. They would be just like any other non-immigrant visa holder who may decide to access the legal immigration system.

CROWLEY: But his point, it seems to me -- and I don't want to spend our whole time on this, but his point, it seems to me, is that he thinks that people ought to go home and apply and not stay here. And that has been the conservative criticism of this plan, which is, gee, it just sounds like kind of a two-tier pathway to citizenship.

RUBIO: Well, I think what he was describing, again, was the DREAM Act. And the DREAM Act does create a special pathway to citizenship.

CROWLEY: But so does yours, doesn't it?

RUBIO: No, it doesn't. All it does is it gives...

CROWLEY: But they can stay here and become citizens.

RUBIO: But that's not immigration. That's a non-immigrant visa. In essence they would have the same -- there are two pathways. There's a non-immigrant visa pathway which exists for people who are going to be here for a defined period of time, they can renew it.

CROWLEY: That you would give to them.

RUBIO: Right. And they could renew that. But that's -- you can never turn that into residency and then citizenship.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), CHAIRMAN, BUDGET COMMITTEE: This year we're offering again our "Path to Prosperity."


CROWLEY: Paul Ryan put out a budget that was passed by the House. Would you be comfortable if you were running this year, running on the specifics of the Ryan budget?

RUBIO: Well, understand that, look, now the House is going through the process of defining the specific cuts. And I think there will be disagreement about what we should be cutting or not cutting. But that's...

CROWLEY: Do you disagree...


RUBIO: ... debate.

CROWLEY: ... with some of it?

RUBIO: Well, you know why it's unfair to criticize the Ryan budget for anyone? There's nothing to compare it to. Where is the Democrats' budget? The president's budget is not -- if we put the president's budget for a vote today, I predict that maybe one, maybe no Democrat would vote for it. That's what happened last year.

I think it's unfair to attack the Ryan budget, for anyone to attack it when they don't have a budget of their own. Now let me say this about the Ryan budget, it is a serious endeavor to deal with the pressing issues of our country, primarily the fact that we are going to lose Medicare if we don't reform it.

And here is where the demagoguery comes in when people attack anybody who designs -- or has any designs for changing Medicare. So let me be clear in my position. I will never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt people like my mother who is on Medicare today.

CROWLEY: In addition to the Medicare changes that he suggests in his budget, there are also cuts in many domestic programs, deep cuts because there are very few things that you would describe as tax increases, to hunger and nutrition programs. It's going to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The system becomes more complicated for them. Is that the sort of values that you would run on now?

RUBIO: Well, that's the recommendation of a committee in the House. That has to be fully vetted and debated in the House.


RUBIO: And I think there are alternatives. I'm always wary, and I'm not being critical of the Ryan budget, because I think that's part of the debate, and when you tell a committee you have got to find X number of dollars to save, you are going to see reductions in domestic spending.

I think we always have to be careful about impacting our safety net, because I think there's a proper role for a governmental safety net to help those who cannot help themselves.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a final couple of real political questions. One is, can you tell me the main difference between George W. Bush's administration and what Mitt Romney is proposing?

RUBIO: In terms of?

CROWLEY: For Romney, just a big difference. Is there a big difference you can...

RUBIO: Yes, well, I haven't gone through the comparison. I think the presidents serve in different times with different challenges. And so certainly I think George W. Bush, in my opinion, did a fantastic job as president over eight years facing a set of circumstances during those eight years that are different from the circumstances that a President Romney would face.

CROWLEY: Jeb Bush, a mentor, your colleague, says that he really hopes if Mitt Romney comes to you and asks you to be vice president that you would say yes.

RUBIO: Well, that's very nice of Jeb. I hope he'll say yes if a future President Romney asks him. You know...

CROWLEY: And he, in fact, indicated he'd certainly look at it.

RUBIO: Yes. Well, that's good because I think he'd be a fantastic vice president. But let me just say this about the vice presidential process. Up until now it has all been theoretical. We have a nominee now and our nominee, Mitt Romney, the leader of the Republican Party, has a vice presidential process in place.

And I think from this point moving forward I think it would be wise for all Republicans to kind of respect that process, myself included, and say, moving forward we're going to let his process play itself out.

He has been a great decision-maker throughout his career in both the private sector and in politics. He's going to make a great choice.

CROWLEY: Sorry. Do you still stand by, I wouldn't accept it if he offered it?

RUBIO: Yes, I'm not going to even discuss the process any more. I'm going to be respectful of the process he has put in place. And I think that...

CROWLEY: That's kind of different though than what...

RUBIO: No, I think...


CROWLEY: ... saying before.

RUBIO: ... it's fair. I think the fairness in it is he now has a real process in place. He has folks that he has hired and has asked to go through a vice presidential process. The last thing he needs are those of us in the peanut gallery to being saying what we would or would not do.

So here's what I know, I know Mitt Romney is going to make a great choice for vice president. And I know Mitt Romney is going to make a great president for this country.

CROWLEY: OK. I just know how this is going to get translated. It's going to get translated that you've backed off saying, I would not accept the offer.

RUBIO: No. What I would characterize it as is, I'm not going to discuss it anymore because now there's a real process in place and I want to be respectful of the process that he's working on.

CROWLEY: OK. But you know how that's going to be interpreted.

RUBIO: He has a process and we should respect that process.


CROWLEY: Senator Rubio hits the campaign trail with Governor Romney tomorrow. His advice to the presumptive nominee, keep selling American enterprise.

When we return I ask the senator a question on lots of people's minds.


CROWLEY: Do you want to be president some day? Do you think about that?



CROWLEY: After our interview, Senator Rubio and I took a walk in the Florida humidity where he talked about his Catholicism and why he says he doesn't dream of being president.


CROWLEY: Let me ask you, I know you have a book coming out and we'll get some of these answers, do you -- a lot has been made of about your religion or the churches you have been in, Mormon at one point. We know that you enjoy evangelical services, but you're catholic.


CROWLEY: Is that the religion you identify with?

RUBIO: Yeah.

CROWLEY: Is there a particular one, or do you just like...

RUBIO: No. I'm a Roman Catholic, And I'm going to detail this in this book. And I think people will find that interesting. I have a lot of respect for the way, for example, some evangelical churches, especially the one we attend, have a relationship, the way they teach the written word. I have a lot of respect for that. And I enjoy that.

But we're Roman Catholic. And I have been. I've been baptized and confirmed. And when I was young, I was a kid, we had an experience -- all that's detailed. you have to buy the book to read the details of it, but yeah I'm a Roman Catholic.

CROWLEY: Do you want to be president some day? Do you think about that?

RUBIO: I don't. I haven't.

CROWLEY: Ever? Surely you must be, because you're just this wunderkind that sort of appeared on the scene. You are the -- you know, this is the Republican's Barack Obama. I mean...

RUBIO: Look, I get that, but I've never approached public service in that way. I think if you do it's a recipe for disaster. I have always approach it as the following -- if you have a job, if you're given an opportunity to serve and you do a good job, you will have opportunities to do other things. We just don't know what those opportunities are going to be. They may be outside of government. They may be in the not for profit sector. They may be in business. They may be in politics. I don't know.

But the biggest trap I have seen in politics is when someone goes into a position with the idea of creating a platform to run for something else it almost always ends up bad. So I deliberately don't think about what specific things this will lead to.

CROWLEY: Some people say, oh, this is a future president you block that out.

RUBIO: Maybe they mean of a condominium association. You know, there's real power there.

CROWLEY: I actually doubt that, but OK.

Thank you so much.

RUBIO: Thank you.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it.


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