Marco Rubio Riles Cuban Americans Ahead of Florida Debate

The popular Florida GOP senator says Obama has no plan for the future.

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HIALEAH, FLA. – Favorite son and conservative hero Florida Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Barack Obama before a crowd of about 100 people in a Cuban enclave near Miami during a Monday rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Rubio, a top surrogate for the Romney campaign, is of Cuban descent and addressed the mostly Cuban-American crowd in Spanish as well as English at the gathering in the parking lot of a local Republican Party office.

"Over the last three weeks of this campaign the president has refused to tell us what he's going to do over the next four years," Rubio said. "All it is is name-calling; all it is is personal attacks. He called Mitt Romney a liar. Last week he came up with this cute little phrase 'Romnesia' and all these silly things he comes up with. How about this, how about a plan for the next four years?"

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The Obama campaign, which has lost ground to Romney in recent national and swing state polling, is desperate and on the attack, Rubio said.

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio working the crowd after his Romney-Ryan rally on Monday in Hialeah, Fla.

"It's not going to work; people see through that and that's what we are going to see tonight in the debate," Rubio said. "It will be the last of the three debates and it'll be obvious after tonight that there's only one person running that has a plan for the next four years and his name is Mitt Romney."

While Obama leads polling among Latino voters by more than a 2 to 1 margin, the Cuban-American vote – mostly centered around Miami – is distinctly pro-Republican. Cubans, thanks to the one foot on dry land policy, have a very different experience with immigration – a key issue for most Hispanic voters – than Latinos from countries like Mexico.

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A couple who emigrated from Cuba in 1962 attended the rally and said they support Republicans because they believe in personal responsibility, not reliance on the government. This fear of government dependency is a common sentiment among those who left behind the communist Castro regime.

Others gathered at the rally gave different reasons for supporting Romney.

"The difference between one and the other is night and day," says Jorge Carbonell of Doral. "We gave the opportunity to Obama to do something for the nation, but he's doing nothing. Only promise, no delivery. Romney is a businessman who has proved for years he knows what he's doing."

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Like in other states, the president's controversial healthcare overhaul is also a motivation to support Romney.

"The biggest thing is the Obamacare. I don't like it," says Ben Kennedy of Miami Shores. "And also the way he's dealing with Russia, telling Russia he's going to 'fix it all' after the election."

Kennedy was referring to a hot-mic moment that caught Obama seeking to reassure outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would have more flexibility after the election to negotiate on the U.S. missile defense system. He says the idea of Obama saying one thing in public and another in private makes him uncomfortable.

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But Kennedy dismisses Romney's own private moment that was made public: a secretly recorded tape that showed Romney telling rich donors at a Boca Raton fundraiser that the 47 percent of Americans who support Obama are dependent on government and don't concern him.

"It was probably was ill-stated. I don't think he's 100 percent wrong on that, there are a lot of hangers-on who are on for the free ride" he says. "That's our problem; there are too many people along for a free ride."

Kennedy is also looking forward to future presidential elections, he says.

"I'd like to be able to vote for Marco Rubio for president," Kennedy says with a smile.

Obama and Romney face off Monday night for the third and final presidential debate. Polling shows the two men in a virtual tie, with Romney gaining momentum as of late. Election Day is November 6.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at rmetzler@usnews.com.