Rubio endorses Huckabee

This was in today’s Palm Beach Post
By DARA KAM Palm Beach Post Staff Writer  Monday, December 10, 2007

MIAMI — Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee picked up a key Florida Hispanic endorsement this morning from House Speaker Marco Rubio, the state’s first Cuban-American house speaker.

The endorsement, announced at South Miami’s popular La Carreta restaurant, comes the morning after a GOP presidential debate broadcast on the Spanish-language Univision television and radio stations.

Rubio said he is backing Huckabee because of his sincerity and because of the former Arkansas governor’s staunch anti-abortion stance.

Rubio, a conservative Republican, is popular among Cuban Americans in South Florida whose stands include opposition to abortion and gay marriage as well as a hard-line approach to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul regime in Cuba.

Huckabee said Rubio helped him shift his attitude towards Cuba over the past year and that he is now convinced that the Cuban embargo should not be lifted until the country holds free elections, promotes civil rights and frees political prisoners.

“I commit we would veto any legislation that would lift the embargo,” Huckabee said today.

That represents a marked change from a 2002 letter then-Gov. Huckabee wrote to President George W. Bush asking him to lift the embargo to help Arkansas’ flailing rice industry and revive the state’s sagging economy.

Fred Thompson’s campaign sent out a press release during Sunday night’s debate highlighting the letter after Huckabee vowed to uphold the embargo.

The reversal is in part due to Rubio’s education and “the simple reality that I’m running for president of the United States, not for reelection as governor of Arkansas,” Huckabee said.

“I’m always subject to learning, to growing and never being so stubborn and maybe bull-headed that when we’re confronted with important facts about this policy that we wouldn’t come to the place where we make the right decisions,” Huckabee said.

Rubio said he supports Huckabee, a Baptist minister, because he considers him the most conservative candidate in the race.

“People are looking for genuineness and sincerity in politics, a candidate who says what they believe but at the same time is open-minded enough to be confronted with facts and change their opinion on issues,” he said.

Huckabee also supports deporting the 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States and allowing them to apply for citizenship through the normal channels but also wants to expedite the process which he says drags on years too long.

That position sits well with many Cuban Americans but is less popular among other Hispanic voters.

The endorsement highlights the importance of the Hispanic vote, considered a crucial bloc for a Republican win in the general election next year.

“This may not do a lot for Marco’s career but it’s sure going to do a lot for mine. Everyone running for president wanted the endorsement of the speaker. Everyone sought it. Everyone asked for it. No one would have turned it down,” Huckabee said.

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