U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio praised the virtues of small businesses and free enterprise during a campaign rally for Mitt Romney on Tuesday in Henderson, emphasizing a choice voters will make between two visions for the economy in the upcoming November elections.
A day after Ann Romney rallied her husband's supporters at the Henderson Convention Center, Rubio, R-Fla., addressed a crowd of several hundred people in a ballroom at the Green Valley Ranch casino.
During his half-hour speech, Rubio, who spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas, focused mainly on the economy, criticizing President Barack Obama and telling the crowd "We can do better."
"I know times are tough and they're not getting better fast enough," Rubio said. "I'm telling you, it doesn't have to be this way. We're just a few important decisions away from turning this thing around."
Wearing a light-blue shirt and black pants, Rubio made a personal appeal to the older, mostly white crowd, drawing on the background of his parents, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba. His father spent time as a bartender at Sam's Town casino, while his mother was a maid at the Imperial Palace.
"We never had everything we wanted, but we always had everything we needed," he said. "We had the most important thing a parent can give a child, a strong and stable family that encouraged us to dream and supported us in the pursuit of those dreams."
Rubio, who has championed his own version of the Dream Act, made only a passing reference to immigration issues, but he did make a brief statement in Spanish toward the end of his speech.
Instead, he focused on the economy, praising the perseverance of people who saved their money and dedicated themselves to starting small businesses and creating jobs.
He said the Obama administration has made it difficult to do business through high taxes and overly burdensome regulation, and that Romney, who was mentioned by name only a few times during the speech, would turn the economy around by repealing the Affordable Care Act, simplifying the tax code and reducing regulations.
"Our problem is our government and it starts at the top. The president doesn't understand free enterprise and he doesn't believe in free enterprise," he said.
Rubio was introduced by Rep. Joe Heck, congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian and Matt Romney, a son of Mitt Romney. Throughout the event, the speakers emphasized the need for supporters to continue their efforts to reach out -- through phone calls, canvassing or conversations with their neighbors -- to spread the word about Romney.
"This election is going to be very close," Rubio said. "Everybody in this room knows somebody who isn't going to go vote unless you get them to vote."
Las Vegas resident Daniel Schneider said Tuesday was the first campaign event he's attended all year and that he's still undecided on whom he will vote for.
Schneider said he liked Rubio's focus on small business -- Schneider dreams of one day running his own business -- but he's going to watch the debates and listen to both sides before deciding whom to cast his vote for.
"I've got friends who own businesses, and it's been very difficult for them," over the past few years, Schneider said.
Mike Tracey, who said he's definitely voting for Romney, was drawn to Tuesday's event by Rubio, who he described as a "rising star" in the Republican Party.
"(Rubio) was all about free enterprise," Tracey said. "He was attacking Barack Obama's methods that don't work without attacking him personally."
Tuesday was the Florida junior senator's second campaign appearance in Southern Nevada on Romney's behalf. Rubio also appeared in July at C.C. Ronnow Elementary School for a Romney rally.
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