HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio called Russian President Vladimir Putin a criminal on Saturday in a presidential campaign speech less focused on foreign and domestic policy than recounting his parents’ immigrant experience to voters in his childhood hometown.
“He is a dangerous person,” Rubio said of Putin, “and we should never be under any illusions as long as he runs that country.”
When GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump visited Las Vegas on Saturday, he said he could be pals with Putin and that “I think we would get along very, very well.”
Rubio’s immigrant parents, who came to the U.S. from Cuba, found jobs in the casino industry in Las Vegas. The Florida Republican would visit Henderson, about a half-hour drive from Las Vegas, as a child.
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“When I grew up, there was nothing out here but an ice skating rink,” he told an audience at a sprawling golf course and retirement community. Watching the nuclear war movie “War Games” as a child, he said he fretted when actor Mathew Broderick’s character picked Las Vegas for a target.
Rubio, 44, largely repeated the family story he related Friday to the Libertarian-leaning FreedomFest gathering in Las Vegas, saying that his parents embody the American dream and that he was indebted to the United States. Running for president is his way of repaying his obligation, he said.
Rubio received the most applause from the retirees when he vowed that as president he would make sure that “we will remain the single most powerful military force the world has ever known” by competing with other nations that are investing billions in new military technology.
He also elicited applause when he promised to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
On a local issue, Rubio repeated his stance that Yucca Mountain in Nevada remains the only option for eventually storing the country’s nuclear waste. Many people in Nevada oppose the project, and its senior U.S. senator, Harry Reid, has vowed that Yucca Mountain not become the nation’s nuclear dump.