Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 | 9:05 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller leaned on one of the Republican Party’s rising stars Thursday to help him build the case for his campaign against Democrat Shelley Berkley.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a conservative champion and oft-considered potential running mate to Mitt Romney, headlined rallies in Las Vegas and Reno before helping Heller raise money in Lake Tahoe.
Rubio declared that Republicans need to win Nevada and Massachusetts to take over the majority in the Senate and delivered a heated defense of his party’s approach to “saving Medicare.”
“If Dean Heller is not re-elected, we can’t be the majority,” Rubio said in an interview at a Reno brewery. “So in many ways, Nevadans aren’t just deciding who their next senator is going to be, they’re deciding who the next majority leader is going to be.”
Rubio also took on one of the major attacks Berkley has launched against Heller: That he supports a plan to “end Medicare.”
Rubio argued the Republican plan to revamp Medicare into a premium support model that would help senior citizens pay for private insurance is the “most serious plan out there” to save Medicare.
“Yes, my Medicare is going to look different than it does today,” he said of the program that would be available to those younger than 55. “But you’re going to have an option (to use the new program or the old program). The second thing is your Medicare (support) is adjusted for income and ability to pay and it’s also risk-adjusted depending on your health conditions.”
Rubio also touted his Nevada upbringing. His family lived in Las Vegas for several years, after his parents emigrated from Cuba. His father worked as a bartender and his mother worked as a maid.
“My parents worked jobs so that I could have a career,” Rubio said in a brief interview at a Reno brewery. “The purpose of their life became to give me the chance to do all the things they never had a chance to do. The reason they were able to do that is because of the American free enterprise system.”
Rubio later declared President Barack Obama and Democrats a threat to free enterprise.
“That’s the choice for voters in Nevada,” he said. “If they want to see more free enterprise and limited government, then you need to elect Dean Heller to the Senate,” he said. “He will support that and he will be part of a new majority that will support that.”
As Rubio was led away to go tour the Reno brewery, he got one last sarcastic jab in at Democrats: “Now, let’s go see this business the government built.”