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Rubio Argues in Michigan He's the 'Conservative Who Can Win This Race'

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) shakes hands with audience members during a campaign event on Feb. 23, 2016, in Kentwood, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told about 1,500 people at a Tuesday rally, hours before those supporters learned their man came in a distant second in the Nevada caucuses, that he’s the best option GOPs have to both unite the Republican Party and defeat either Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Before his Grand Rapids rally, Rubio was at events in Las Vegas and Minneapolis. At all three stops, Rubio admitted to supporters he might not have been their first or even second choice for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. But now that only five candidates are left, Rubio said he’s the GOP’s best shot at the White House.

“If we’re still angry, and fighting and bickering and a third of our voters are saying I’m not voting ‘cause I don’t like the guy or gal who won, we lose. We have to come together,” NBC reported Rubio said in Minnesota.

In Grand Rapids, Rubio threw verbal punches at Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) without mentioning either by name.

Rubio jabbed at Trump’s style of campaigning when he said, “Anger and frustration can motivate us, but anger and frustration by themselves cannot solve our problems.”

The Florida Republican punched at Cruz by saying that he, Rubio, is the “conservative who can win this race.”

Rubio called out President Obama as a “weak” commander in chief. The member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees also promised a “Reagan”-style rebuilding of the U.S. military.

Rubio told his audience in Grand Rapids that they would enjoy his presidency if only because for the first time in eight years they would have a president in the White House who followed the U.S. Constitution.

As for Clinton, Rubio only said she was “disqualified to be commander in chief” because she had transmitted top-secret emails through her private server.

The senator also took a swipe at Sanders and his supporters by offering some advice. “If you want to live in a socialist country, you should move to a socialist country,” he said.

Perhaps it was the boisterous applause from the 1,500 supporters who started chanting “Marco, Marco” close to an hour before he hit the stage that kept Rubio going. Or maybe he was still running on the fuel of the close to two dozen endorsements he had received in the past few days, but speaking in Grand Rapids, Rubio did not seem dissuaded by what he must have known at the time would be another short-of-first performance in Nevada.

Rubio told his Grand Rapids supporters that when they cast a ballot for him in the Michigan GOP primary on March 8, they would be doing more than voting for a GOP presidential nominee; they would be voting for the next president of the United States.

The Real Clear Politics polling average in Michigan showed Trump with a 20.7 percent lead over his nearest rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Cruz was in third place, followed by Rubio, who was more than 22 points behind Trump.

Richard Czuba, the president of the Glengariff Group, a Michigan firm that conducted a GOP presidential primary poll for the Detroit News in mid-February, said Republicans either love the New York billionaire or they hate him. There’s no in between.

And independent voters in Michigan don’t like Trump.

However, Cruz, Rubio, and the rest of the pack are turning out to be each other’s worst enemies.

“It’s somewhat ironic that Donald Trump is building his lead in Michigan on the backs of voters who are pro-choice and don’t attend church regularly,” Czuba told the Detroit News. “The problem for all of the other candidates is they’re all fighting to be the bridesmaid right now, but they’re not fighting to be the bride.”