Back in January, when we had some snow on the ground and baby bunnies in the barn…
I was facing an important decision. I knew in a few short weeks I had the awesome privilege of being among the first in the nation to choose one presidential candidate whom I felt would be the best Republican nominee. I knew I’d have to shade in one circle on the ballot, and only one, among many.
An Amazing Privilege
Based on my respect for the constitution and its view of the roles of our federal government, I knew I would be voting for a presidential nominee who was conservative. Based on my Judeo Christian heritage and beliefs, I knew I would be voting for one of two candidates whom I felt most closely shared my values, while having enough support to be a valid possibility for nomination. A vote for anyone without a legitimate chance to win the nomination was, in my opinion, a vote for a misogynistic, racist, pompous alternative candidate.
I knew Senator Cruz had, as a teenager, memorized the constitution, and I knew he was a staunch defender of the constitution. I knew I wanted to meet this man. (More about that in a future post.)
Another candidate I first heard of when I watched his speech at the Republican convention in 2012. I loved what I heard and personally hoped then that I would see more of him in the political arena. Little did I know not only would he be running for the highest office in the land in just 3 brief years, but I would get to talk to him about how he viewed his role if elected Commander in Chief.
It’s an amazing privilege afforded residents of little ole New Hampshire… if you take the time, go to the town hall meetings and rallies, and wait patiently, you can hear the candidates, up close and personal. You truly get a feel for their genuineness, or lack thereof. You watch their mannerisms and interactions with others, behind the scenes. You can form your own personal opinion, based on your own observations, of whom you personally believe is worthy of your vote.
When Marco Rubio was talking at a small American Legion headquarters one hour south of us, and exactly one hour north of my oldest daughter, who is attending college outside of Boston, two daughters and I met their sister in the middle and attended the town hall meeting together. After listening to his very personal description of his childhood; his family; his career; and his passion for our country, our military, and our constitution, we sat for a long time enjoying listening to his open responses to question after question from a wide array of audience members. Long after his staff mentioned that the next question would be the last, he kept asking them to take the microphone to one more audience member, then one more. It was his last stop of a very full day, but he wasn’t ready to actually stop. While he did look a little tired, his enthusiasm never dimmed. He seemed to truly want us to know his opinion on every topic that surfaced with every turn of the microphone.
After the last question, it took a while for the crowded, standing-room-only-from-wall-to-wall room to empty. We considered staying and making our way to the front to shake the hand of this man for whom our respect had grown immensely in the past hour or two, but tests to study for, unsureness if he’d stick around for long (making our wait for naught), and mainly our churning, empty stomachs pushed us out the door. Even so, the restaurant where we stopped next was all abuzz with people who had just experienced what we had… a politician who genuinely wanted to talk openly about his detailed thoughts and beliefs… and everyone–a group of gentlemen in their 60s, two young military men who traveled from Vermont, and a group of local college students– everyone was excited at the possibility of such a genuine, committed, America-loving, constitution-honoring man in the White House.
The young age of supporters…
…and the level of enthusiasm for Marco was obvious.
Days later, one daughter was lamenting that we let our stomachs win out over our desire to talk to Marco Rubio that night, so we did what any one would do in the Granite State, in February of a presidential primary year, we went to see the same candidate again, just 72 hours later. It was cold and rainy.
But it was also the morning after the Iowa caucuses, and the large room in the old mill building was filled to overflow, with young, old, and every age and type in between.
Many people were wanting to see this candidate who apparently, after doing rather well in Iowa, was proving he was worthy of a vote.
Many stories he shared and points he made were different than he had shared at the previous town hall meeting we attended. Some parts of his speech were word-for-word the same, but I felt he somehow managed to deliver the same words fresh and sincerely. Of course, this was before the debate that labeled him a “robot.” But I saw no robot. I genuinely felt he meant what he said.
This time when he had answered the last microphoned question and the room started to drain into emptiness, my daughter and I fought the wave that was headed toward the door, instead traveling upstream, toward a large circle of people who hoped to get their picture with the presidential candidate and pick his brain on issues that were important to them.
Eager to Talk
We waited to the side, where we could observe his interactions with others. I was very surprised at his calm manor, listening intently to question after question, often with a hand on a shoulder of the questioner and a tilt and shake to his head to signal he was following along, even surrounded by bright camera lights of reporters and ruckus of the crowd. I was also surprised that he seemed to answer thoughtfully, not rushed, and leave his voice trailing open a little, to clarify they didn’t have any thing else to share before he turned his attention to the next person.
Twice he turned to my 15-year-old and smiled, about to make a step in her direction and talk to her, even though she was to the side and meekly waiting, and even though plenty of adults were anxious to jump right in his line of vision. He knew she was there, and he was eager to talk to her. But she held back, and his campaign assistant kept directing someone else to step up.
She wound up waiting until we were the next-to-last group of people around the senator, except for a few members of the press interviewing stragglers, and a few camera men still packing up their equipment. I think she may have hung back because she assumed her question, belonging to a teen, probably wasn’t as important as others in the room, or maybe she figured she should give precedence to voting-age people. But she was blown away by the respect he showed her and the sincerity which he answered her.
Senator Rubio put his left hand on her right shoulder while shaking her hand and looking her in the eye as she explained that she is only 15 and of course couldn’t vote, but she had, nonetheless, been closely following the candidates and felt very stressed that if she could vote she truly did not know if she would vote for him or Cruz, but she would choose based on whom she felt was most likely to gain the most delegate votes to make sure he would be able to beat Trump. (Hmmm, back in January, I wouldn’t have thought her worries would truly come to fruition, but sadly, here we are today facing this very concern.) She went on to ask if he was concerned that he and Mr. Cruz may split the vote, giving the advantage to Trump.
He spent a few minutes discussing with her how most likely many candidates would drop out after one or two primary results were in and then hopefully there wouldn’t be a problem moving forward.
Explaining My Reservations
After a few minutes of my daughter and a POTUS candidate discussing the delicate nature of delegate votes, I was ready to contentedly go home and would never have felt slighted if I personally didn’t ask a question. After all, the senator had been at this Town Hall meeting for hours and graciously stayed until the last attendees were filling out. Yet Marco Rubio, once he felt he and Kayla had wrapped up their thoughts, looked me in the eye, nodded his head, and lightly raised his eyebrows as if to say, “And your question?”
I couldn’t resist. I explained my reservations against his more lenient stance on immigration and how it could, in the course of just a few decades, completely eliminate the Republican party. We had a thoughtful conversation about how he and I were in agreement that free enterprise was truly the best way to help those who need help, allowing everyone an opportunity to rise without pulling anyone down; an economic model that allows poor people to become richer without making rich people poorer. He laid out his thoughts about how the Republican party truly does care about the disadvantaged and how the party can, as a whole, help others understand this.
Having read some about his financial background, and knowing that he was far from rich, with a net worth of around $100,000 (versus the over-$3-million net worth of Cruz), I had already decided, before meeting him, that Rubio could actually sympathize with the everyday plight of the common person more than other candidates could.
At this point, his campaign assistant interrupted and pointed out that they needed to be in the bus in less than 10 minutes. Since there was still one small group after us, I started to walk away. He could have easily left it at that, finished with the last straggler and headed on his way. But another thought came to him that he genuinely wanted to share with me, so he rested his hand on my shoulder from behind, and explained, as I stepped back towards him, that a huge majority of the legal immigrants he meets in Florida are very deeply committed to a conservative catholic church, so they do extol many of the same values as the conservative Republican party, but the Republican party needs to do a better job of reaching out to them and helping them understand this common ground.
I was so impressed by his sincerity at that point, sincerity that I saw in the deep line of his brow and heard in the low tone of his voice, that I asked one more question, with deep sincerity of my own, and without a second thought.
“How can I be praying for you, daily?”
He didn’t hesitate. He asked me to pray for his family. He said, “You know, this has all been quite crazy for them. I’d really appreciate your prayers for each of them.”
Turns out I’m not the only one he’s asked this of. Near the end of this six-minute video (below), he asks the same of his audience. He actually did not discuss a lot about his personal faith at the town hall meeting we attended in February. He was asked about his faith at the first Town Hall meeting we had attended, days earlier, and he gave an answer that included a few of the points he mentions in the video below. (By the way, this was one big difference I felt between Rubio and Cruz: the way they expressed their faith. If asked about a particular aspect of his religious beliefs, Rubio was eager to answer and expressive with details, but he didn’t bombard us with his faith, unlike Cruz who peppered his memorized speech with Bible verses for emphasis. After meeting both, I remember being impressed that Rubio’s faith is an integral part of him, while Cruz wears his faith on his denim-clad shoulders as almost a badge of honor or mark of an outsider. Not that one is more sincere, but they definitely express their faith differently.)
Oh, and in this video (below), Senator Rubio gives a detailed explanation of his faith and his background in the Catholic church, Mormonism, and the Baptist denomination:
I am proud to say that in the NH primaries I placed my vote very eagerly and confidently for Marco Rubio. Given his low number of delegate votes at this stage of the game, if I was voting in the next primaries, I would be placing my vote for Ted Cruz. Unless I was a Florida resident, where I would wholeheartedly vote for Rubio, hoping he keeps Trump from winning Florida’s winner-takes-all delegate votes. Although I realize his bid for the white house might be an impossibility in a few weeks, depending on upcoming primary results, I sincerely hope I can someday refer to him as “President Rubio.” He would be a godly, sincere, passionately patriotic President.
p.s. On a side note, neither my daughter nor I talked with the senator about his views on homeschooling, but had researched in many sources and listened to his own debates on the topic and knew his stance is very pro-homeschooling. A fellow homeschool friend DID talk to him about the topic and assured me he was extremely positive and supportive about it, explaining that his own family was homeschooling while the children were on his campaign tour with him.
Other Related Posts
My other posts in this series on the NH presidential primaries:
One about the different venues in the NH primary where one can meet the candidates.
Tomorrow’s post will be about the press and politics.