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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio stumps in Pinellas for straw votes



INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio swept into a cigar-and-sushi fed crowd Monday night in coastal Pinellas, softening the ground for a events this month -- and January -- to win support in the county.

Rubio's event at Crabby Bill's sushi restaurant attracted roughly 200 people, according to supporters' estimates, standing shoulder to shoulder to hear him. He speaks later this month to the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee before facing Gov. Charlie Crist in a January straw poll of the county GOP.

His speech at the event, a meeting of the Hispanic Republican Club of Pinellas County, never strayed far from broad themes extolling conservatism, America and limited government. Sheriff Jim Coats attended as an "interested" but uncommitted observer, Coats said. Rubio was introduced by a Florida House candidate Fabian Calvo, a club member who is still relatively unknown.

Rubio didn't mention Crist, but there was no doubt about the target of a few of his jabs. Of his conservative stances, he said, "They're not positions that I took a poll last week and decided to adopt." Later, Rubio ripped politicians who "will say or do anything" to win election. "To them," Rubio said, "election day and Halloween are the same day."

Rubio also extolled term-limits, but refused in an interview to apply them to his own possible election.

"I think term limits should be part of our constitution," he said

What's his limit?

"Well, obviously, no senator that gets elected should announce how long they're going to be there, because you become a lame duck from day one. But I do believe term limits should be part of our constitution, and should be uniformly applied to all senators."

(UPDATE: Rubio voted in 2005 for a bill to up Florida's term limits on lawmakers to 12 years, if voters approved. After citing voters dismay at the idea, he voted with the House majority to rescind that bill in 2006.)

Rubio -- winner of past contests to build surprising momentum -- wouldn't predict victory in Pinellas in January, noting it's the governor's hometown.

"They are important, especially to the people who are voting," Rubio said. "And it's important to me, because these are activists. These are people who help us on Election Day."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:25pm]


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