SEN. MARCO RUBIO TO MSNBC: "I'M NOT GOING TO ABSTAIN AND I'M NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR HILLARY"
Former presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke to NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell on the heels of his announcement that he will run for re-election to the Senate in November.
Asked why he changed his mind, Sen. Rubio stated: “Well, first, I did change my mind. I never said I was perfect or I had all the answers. And look, the bottom line is, I feel deeply that no matter who is elected president of the United States we are to need a Senate that has people willing to check and balance that.”
He later added, “the U.S. Senate plays a very important role in checking and balancing the excesses of the president. And I think no matter who's elected that's going to be really important in 2016, and so it's one of the reasons why I changed my mind and chose to run.”
On if he will campaign with Donald Trump: “Well, I have said I'm not going to, and the reason why is because we have significant disagreements on a lot of issues. But I disagree with Hillary on everything. So it's a race between a candidate that I disagree with on a lot of things and candidate that I disagree on almost everything.”
Regarding whether he’ll vote for Donald Trump, he noted, “I'm not going to abstain and I'm not going to vote for Hillary.”
Asked if he’ll run for president in 2020, Sen. Rubio stated: “It's not my plan. If it was I wouldn't run for re-election.”
Full transcript below. If used, please provide mandatory credit: “MSNBC”
SNOW: We are back with breaking news on Capitol Hill, where as we mentioned our Kelly O'Donnell just moments ago had a chance to interview Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former presidential candidate, who has just announced that he will be running for re-election in November.
O'DONNELL: Senator Rubio, you told us so many times you would not seek another term. You told us so many times you almost got irritated when we pressed you on it. Why change your mind and why now?
RUBIO: Well, first, I did change my mind. I never said I was perfect or I had all the answers. And look, the bottom line is, I feel deeply that no matter who is elected president of the United States we are to need a Senate that has people willing to check and balance that. And that's true whether it's a president of your own party or from the other side.
And I got into public service to try to make a difference. You know, obviously we had a path available to us that would have been more comfortable and a little less risky politically. But I don't -- I couldn't come to grips with the idea that at a moment where I could have made a difference, both in the outcome of the race and future of the Senate over the next six years of the country that I was going walk away from that challenge, and so when the opportunity presented itself about 10 days ago because Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who was in the race, asked me to think about it. We did as a family over the weekend. We decided to choose the path of service.
O'DONNELL: And Donald Trump of course beat you in your home state during the primary season. So there are some who say you could actually lose twice because although being an incumbent is an advantage, it's not a sure thing.
RUBIO: Sure, it's a difficult race. I get the political risk involved. The politically safe thing to do is to just kind of go home and be comfortable for a while and live to fight another day. But there's too much at stake. And when that opportunity presented itself we looked at it carefully. We prayed about it, and we reached this conclusion.
I fully understand that from a political point of view this is probably not the safest or logical choice. But to me -- honestly this choice wasn't about politics. I knew what the safer route was politically.
O'DONNELL: Do you remain committed to supporting Donald Trump? You talked about feeling some anxiety about his positions and things that he has said. Would you campaign with him?
RUBIO: Well, I have said I'm not going to, and the reason why is because we have significant disagreements on a lot of issues. But I disagree with Hillary on everything. So it's a race between a candidate that I disagree with on a lot of things and candidate that I disagree on almost everything.
So it's not the ideal choice, not the choice that I wanted -- I ran for president -- but it's the choice the voters have made. And I respect it. Irrespective of the presidency we're going to have a U.S. Senate. And in the Constitution, the U.S. Senate plays a very important role in checking and balancing the excesses of the president. And I think no matter who's elected that's going to be really important in 2016, and so it's one of the reasons why I changed my mind and chose to run.
O'DONNELL: You were criticized for your absenteeism as a candidate and you said a number of things about what it means to be a senator, that you really didn't enjoy the position.
Won't that be a factor in your race? Do you want this job?
RUBIO: I am frustrated by the Senate. But who isn't? Eight-nine percent of Americans have a dim view of Congress. There's a lot of parts of this job that are very frustrating. I think everybody can see that. And there are parts of this job that are very fulfilling. I've said that, even during the campaign. I talked about the ability to deliver constituents, and the Senate is a place where you can point to big ideas, and hopefully move them forward.
But in 2016 and beyond, for the next six years, I think the Senate is going to play an incredibly important role in being a check and balance on the excesses of whoever wins the presidential race. And that's the part that ultimately convinced me to change my mind and do this. So I don't -- I'm prepared to come back and serve in the Senate as it is, not as I wish it were, in hopes of maybe changing it so it works better. But I'm not -- my eyes are wide open as to what kind of Senate I'm coming back to. And like most Americans I'm frustrated about it, but that's not a reason to give up.
O'DONNELL: You've always been seen as a bright future face in your party, and many of your supporters would like to see you run in 2020, not knowing what the White House race will result in. Would you commit to the voters of Florida you would serve a full six-year term.
RUBIO: Well, here's what I'm not going to do anymore is make these unequivocal statements about anything. Because No. 1, I don't know who the next president of the United States will be and No. 2, if I was looking to run for president in 2020, getting back into a Senate race in the most competitive seat in the country, state in the country, at this late in the game is incredibly risky and probably not the best way forward.
But here's what I can tell you -- I'm prepared to come back and dedicate my heart and soul to this place as hard as I've ever done. And if all I'll ever be is a U.S. senator from Florida, and we were able to make a difference, I'll be at peace with that. I think we can make a real impact here.
O'DONNELL: So just to be clear, you will not rule out running in 2020, even though a Senate term would extend for six years?
RUBIO: I've just learned I think perhaps the hard way to stop talking about things that you don't -- can't predict far off in the future and hypotheticals. It's not my plan. If it was I wouldn't run for re-election. This is not the ideal step that you take to throw yourself back into the race like this, where it's going to be very difficult, and there is a risk of losing. It's a very competitive seat.
So I'm doing it because I'm coming back to be a senator with all of my heart and soul, because -- and I said if all I'll ever be is a U.S. senator from Florida that's a good thing, and I'll be at peace with it.
O'DONNELL: When you were running for president and we would ask you about things that Donald Trump had said or done, I know that was frustrating for you because you wanted to tell your own story.
As a Senate candidate you'll often be asked about something he is doing or saying. Do you think he will have a negative effect on your ability to be re-elected?
RUBIO: Well, I think I'll have to run on who I am. But it's relevant, and I'll tell you why, because when you're in the Senate, as I just said, we're going to be a check and balance. And so if Donald Trump says something that I don't agree with, I'll tell people. When I'm in the Senate, if he tries to do that, I'll try to stop him. When Donald says something I'll agree with, I'll say that. When I'm in the Senate I'll try to work with him on that.
The same is true with Hillary. The problem is I'll probably disagree with virtually everything she stands for, virtually everything. So what we're -- what I'm not going to allow is sit back and watch the Senate fall under the control of the Democrats, who if Hillary wins are going to basically be a blank check and our country can't afford that.
O'DONNELL: And do you think you are going to give the Senate a better chance of remaining in Republican hands by being in this race? Was that part of it? The majority being at stake?
RUBIO: Well, I -- with no disrespect to the other people running, because they have a right to run. I know they put a lot of time and energy in their own races, and I'm not asking any of them to get out, and I respect their decision. And -- but I do believe that I give us a better chance to win. But no guarantees. This is going to be a tough race. I'm ready for this tough race. It's worth fighting for.
O'DONNELL: And you will likely draw Democrats to have to spend more money in Florida, and that may change things strategically. Do you think tactically you help the party?
RUBIO: Honestly that wasn't even part of our consideration. I knew -- I heard all the voices of people encouraging me to run. I was obviously honored by that. But my decision was made in West Miami, Florida, in my home in between -- as I said to some people already today, in between pressure cleaning my driveway, Jeanette and I and the kids spent some time talking about what this would mean.
And we had two paths to choose, kind of a more comfortable life and less risk, or the chance to make a difference both in this election and ultimately for this country. And that's the path we chose, and I'm proud of it, I really am.
O'DONNELL: Two quick questions to remain, when I asked you about Donald Trump, do you intend to vote for him even though you don't want to campaign with him?
RUBIO: Well, I am not going to abstain. And I can tell you that this is not the choice a lot of people wanted. I obviously ran for president, that's the choice I wanted. It's the choice we have.
And it's a choice between, as I told you, Donald Trump, who I disagree with on a lot of things, and Hillary Clinton, who I disagree with on everything. And it's an unusual choice. I mean, most years I have more in common with the Republican nominee than I do this year.
But in the end I'm not going to abstain and I'm not going to vote for Hillary.
O'DONNELL: And finally, we know you were on the ground in Orlando. The country has been concerned about all the events that have happened there, the families that have been so affected, and all the root causes of what transpired there.
Did that have any impact or influence on your decision?
RUBIO: Well, it had an impact on me personally, I'm not sure it had an impact on the decision per se. This decision is beyond one event, as tragic and horrible it is.
It had an impact on me personally in terms not just on the human level, but also on the thought process of what real service should be all about. But ultimately my decision was about, where is the right place for me and my family over the next six years?
And we think it's public service given the challenges that our country is facing, and it's an opportunity I didn't think would happen. I was really prepared to move forward in our lives and have peace with that, and quite frankly looking forward to many aspects of it.
And when my -- when Carlos Lopez-Cantera sat with me and asked me to reconsider, and he was in the race, I did. And this was the conclusion that we reached. So in the end it's about as much as anything else the desire to continue to serve.
O'DONNELL: Well, we thank you for your time and we'll see you on the campaign trail. Thank you, Senator Rubio.