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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio enters 2016 presidential race

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) AP

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Supporters began lining up in 87-degree heat three hours before the public kickoff at Freedom Tower, the Miami landmark that was the first stop for tens of thousands of fleeing Cuban exiles during the 1960s and 1970s.

Kelly Steele, 50, and her 18-year-old son wore tie-dyed Rubio T-shirts. “We have had a lot of Bushes,” Kelly Steele said, comparing Rubio to a youthful John Kennedy.

“Sen. Rubio kind of reminds me of JFK,” she said. “He’s got that energy and desire and momentum and excitement.”

Hours before his rally, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, criticized Rubio as just another establishment Republican with no new ideas.

“He’s a follower, peddling the same tired Republican playbook,” she told reporters. “Marco Rubio has pandered to the Republican base throughout his whole career.”

To counter views of him as a neophyte, Rubio has outlined specific policy proposals both on foreign and domestic issues. He plans future presentations as his campaign gets underway.

On Tuesday, on his first day as a candidate, he is set to return to Washington to join a Senate hearing on a proposed deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions.

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Rubio faces steep challenges to the nomination, including a well-funded one that Bush is expected to offer. The son of one president and brother of another, Jeb Bush was governor while Rubio was speaker of the Florida House. The two formed a close bond, but a presidential campaign was certain to test the strength of their friendship.

On social issues, Rubio says decisions whether to allow same-sex marriage should be left to states. He has criticized judges for overturning same-sex marriage bans and has said that some who support same-sex marriage have been hypocritical because they have been intolerant of those who do not agree with them.

Rubio has also branded gay adoption as a “social experiment” and joined 29 other senators in voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Rubio is the third major GOP contender to declare himself a candidate, after Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a field that could grow to 20 or more.

Rubio could make history as the nation’s first Hispanic president — as could Cruz.

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