Full Transcript: Why Marco Rubio Isn't 'Looking To Be Anyone's Vice President'

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Sarasota, Florida, on March 8. He sat down with MSNBC's Chuck Todd for an hour-long town hall in his home state of Florida on Wednesday night. Steve Nesius/Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio spoke with MSNBC's Chuck Todd during an hour-long town hall at Florida International University in Miami on Wednesday night. The event took place on Rubio's home turf, less than a week before voters head to the polls in the state's crucial primary on March 15. Below is a full transcript of the town hall event.

ANNOUNCER: They want him to drop out of the race. They want to carry him to victory. Through all the insults —

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot turn over the conservative movement to a con artist.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of Florida can't stand him. He couldn't get elected (inaudible).

ANNOUNCER: All the finger pointing.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally.

RUBIO: He's lying about all sorts of things, so now he makes things up.

ANNOUNCER: Now, Marco Rubio is looking to win his home state and prove he deserves to be the nominee.

RUBIO: We know that limited government and free enterprise and a strong national defense is a better way forward for you, for me, for us, and for the United States of America.

ANNOUNCER: From Florida International University in Miami, Florida, this is an MSNBC special town hall with Senator Marco Rubio. Here is Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: And good evening and welcome to the MSNBC town hall with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. We're here on the campus of Florida International University right here in Miami, home of the FIU Panthers. Let's go, Panthers. (applause) Don't tell my friends a little north of here what I just said. Anyway, the question that, and this is a critical moment for Senator Rubio today. He's won just 2 contests out of 24 in the race for president, which makes Tuesday's primary, right here in his home state of Florida, absolutely critical to his chances. So let's get started and welcome the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. (applause)

Are you happy when you're home?


TODD: Are you happy when you're home, in your own bed—

RUBIO: Home, home, I teach here at FIU.

TODD: Home, home, you teach here, all this stuff—

RUBIO: Yes. Some people got some A's in here.

TODD: Are you a tough grader?

RUBIO: No. They're voters. (laughter)

TODD: They're real strict, right? Always get the professor who's running for office. All right, let's get started with stuff that you probably don't want to talk about. It was a tough time last night. You've only won 2 contests out of 24. You have a lot of even friends of yours that are saying they're not sure why you're going to keep going. So what do you tell them? You've got some—

RUBIO: Well, I've heard that from the press. But I haven't—no, but look. The bottom line is this. First of all, running for president's tough. It shouldn't be easy. Second of all, I would say to you that it is true, we haven't done as well in some of those states as we wanted to, but it's going to come down to Florida for me, and it always has in the presidential races. Florida's going to award 99 delegates all at once. You can win more delegates in Florida than you can across five or seven states in an apportioned process. So it's always going to be a priority. Even if I had done really well in all these previous states, if I had not done well in Florida, it would be trouble for our campaign, so we need to win here. That's our priority. We're focused on it like a laser and we're going to win. We feel really good about it.

TODD: Well you're at a point—you have said, if you're in the state of Florida, a vote for Ted Cruz or a vote for John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump. Is that your attitude in Ohio? Are you telling any of your supporters, you know what, vote for John Kasich in Ohio?

RUBIO: No. But I'm telling you in Florida—

TODD: Well, why not? Shouldn't that be the strategy?

RUBIO: Well, I'll let Kasich say that in Ohio. I'm just saying to you that in Florida, the only one that has any chance of beating Donald Trump is me. (applause) If you like Donald Trump, that doesn't matter. But if you don't want Donald Trump to be the nominee, even if you're a supporter of Ted Cruz or even if you're a supporter of John Kasich, you vote for Marco Rubio because a vote for anyone other than me is a vote for Donald Trump. I'm the only one that has -- almost a million votes are already in. I'm the only one that has any chance to beat Donald Trump in Florida, because if he gets Florida's 99 delegates, we have a very different conversation next Wednesday about the state of the Republican race.

TODD: Do you think you're struggling in Florida because you're retiring from the senate? That there is a lack of --

RUBIO: No, I just think -- well, I think a couple of things in Florida. There is no one that can run a six month full time presidential campaign in Florida and also be running one in New Hampshire and in Iowa and in South Carolina and the other states we were invested in. Second of all, it is the state that's largely been operating off the national media. And the national media, to be fair, has given Donald Trump ten times as much coverage as every other Republican candidate combined. And part of it is because he says outrageous things and part of it is because he knows how to manipulate the media, but it's had an impact. We're working on reversing that now here in Florida. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but you know what, I've been in tough races before. It's an election. You have to go out and earn these things. And let me tell you, running for president is not nearly as hard as being president. So you better hope your president went through a trial in the campaign, because being president's even harder.

TODD: The other thing I'm wondering about, though, is that as much as the personality of Donald Trump gets in the way, there isn't an ideological difference -- the two of you have two different definitions of conservatism. His is sort of an older version of it, less intervention, tighter borders, skeptical of trade deals -- you're more of, you look at America as a world power sort of being at the center of the world, a little more open to intervention, obviously a little more open to immigration, a little more open to trade deals. Is that really the debate inside the Republican Party, that perhaps, Republicans just want to go back to an older definition of conservatism and not yours?

RUBIO: I think you give Donald Trump too much credit in terms of ideological stand. I mean, he's all over the place with some of these issues and it's largely about an attitude, it's not about --

TODD: But if he's consistent on one thing, it is on protectionism. If there is one thing he's consistent on, and it's been that way going back to '87.

RUBIO: Except for his own businesses where he makes everything overseas, but the thing I would say to you about it, I'm a Ronald Reagan conservative. I grew up in the era of Reagan, so my view of conservatism is shaped by that experience. And it is not an interventionist position. It is the belief that the world's a better place when America is the strongest country in the world. Look, in the absence of American global leadership, there is no other nation or institution that can play that role and the result is chaos, and the evidence of it is every sector of the world today faces chaos. The absence of American leadership in the Asia Pacific region has led to the Chinese taking over the South China Sea, North Korean's increased aggression -- the absence of American leadership has led to NATO's reduction in capability, inviting Vladimir Putin to be more aggressive. The lack of American leadership in the Middle East resulted in the vacuums that now exist in Syria, in Iraq, and increasingly in Libya. So there's a consequence for the lack of American leadership, and you're seeing it all over the world and eventually --

TODD: Some might argue it was too much intervention that created these things.

RUBIO: Well, I've heard that in some cases but it's just not accurate. In the case of Libya, that uprising was caused by the Libyan people. Gaddafi was on his way out whether it took two years or six months. And the choice we had to make is, did we let him go for two years, because (ph) protractive conflicts lead to the sort of vacuums that invite jihadists in. The same has been the case in Syria. And in the case of Iraq, that was the premature withdrawal by Barack Obama of there that left Maliki in charge, allowed him to really go hard after the Sunni's, and the Sunni's welcomed ISIS in as liberators. Not anymore, but they did initially, because they viewed the Shia government in Baghdad as a puppet of Iran and bad towards them.

TODD: Let me move to something. You've been awfully harsh on Donald Trump. In fact, we put together a montage of the clips, let me play it for you.

RUBIO: I've been harsh?


RUBIO: I will go anywhere to speak to anyone before I let a con artist get a hold of the Republican Party --

I mean he's so thin skinned and he's so erratic, and to think you're going to make someone like that commander in chief -- I mean, I want people to think about that.

I think the problem here is that Donald Trump's not really a Republican.

He's not a conservative. I mean, Donald Trump basically has policy positions that are indistinguishable from Democrats.

Do not give in to the fear. Do not give in to anger. Do not give in to scam artists and con artists.

And what he's trying to carry out is a scam to take control of the office of the presidency of the United States.


TODD: I guess my question is, how can you support a con artist? Any regret on the idea that you will support Donald Trump as nominee? You call him a con artist, a scam artist --

RUBIO: And I think it's indicative of how bad Hillary Clinton would be, or Bernie Sanders, to even contemplate that. But let me say, because I can't vote for them, and I can't support --

TODD: You think a con artist, though, I mean, that's the thing --

RUBIO: I think Bernie Sanders is a socialist, which he admits, and I think Hillary Clinton is unqualified to be president of the United States because of the way she handled the e-mail server and because of the way she treated the families of the victims of Benghazi. Bottom line is, I don't want him to be our nominee. The fact that you're even asking me the question tells you why this is a problem. If anyone else -- if John Kasich was where Donald Trump is now, if Jeb Bush was where Donald Trump is now --

TODD: Wait, I was just going to say, would you be out of the race if this were John Kasich and not -- ?

RUBIO: And that's the point. The point is that, no matter what I say today about supporting or not supporting the nominee, there's a significant percentage of Republicans that are not going to vote for Donald Trump. And that is why he will get destroyed in a general election. That's what will happen.


TODD: It's one thing to say you'll support him. Should we assume there's no way you could be on a ticket with a con artist?

RUBIO: Well, when you put it that way --

TODD: Well, you are calling him a con artist --

TODD: There's no way you could be on a ticket with...


RUBIO: When you put it that way.

TODD: Well, you are calling him a con-artists.

RUBIO: I'm not running for Vice President, I'm not looking to be anyone's vice president, I want to be the president...

TODD: Sherman-esque (ph) about it then. Can you be Sherman-esque (ph) about it then? If he offers it, if Donald Trump offers you the slot you will say no?

RUBIO: I'm not interested in being Donald Trump or anybody else's vice president, that's not what I'm aiming at...

TODD: ... Can you answer the question?

RUBIO: Yes, I'll say no, I don't want to be the vice president of the united states. I'm not working for (ph) that...

TODD: ... If Donald Trump asks, you'd say no?


RUBIO: Absolutely -- but, by the way, I am not running to be anyone's vice -- I'm not looking to be anyone's vice president. I looking to be the president of the United States. Or, I'll be a private citizen, there's nothing wrong with being a private citizen.

So, I love public service, it's what I do, it's not who I am.

TODD: Any thought -- there's been all these people that are trying to get you and Ted Cruz to somehow fuse together as a ticket to stop Donald Trump. Are you open to that at all?

RUBIO: You know, I said that in an earlier interview...

TODD: ... Right, with Hugh Hewitt

RUBIO: ... but I think that's kind of House of Cards stuff.


RUBIO: It looks good on T.V., it doesn't ever work that way. Bottom line is, you know, this process is going to play itself out. We are focused on Florida. So, don't' be surprised if we don't do well in some other states next Tuesday because we're not there. We're here.

We'd like to pick up delegates in other states, we have good teams in other states, but we're focused on Florida, my home state, 99 delegates. We do well here we'll talk Wednesday about the state of the race. I feel very positive about it.


TODD: On that note, let me get some students involved in a couple of questions here. We got a lot them, actually.

Jose Andres, come up here. Where's Jose? OK.

Go ahead, thank you.

QUESTION: How are you doing, Senator?


QUESTION: My question is how can you sacrifice basic Christian principles like loving your neighbor, as we saw with recent robo-attacks (ph) on Trump. You justified this by saying if anyone deserves it, it's him.

The Bible says we deserve Hell, yet we still receive grace. As a Christian as well this question is important to me.

RUBIO: Well, let me say on the policy issues, I don't think that violate my faith because there's also such thing as righteous indignation, and when someone is telling you something -- we're talking about the presidency of the United States. We're going to elect the next commander in chief, someone who'll have a real impact on the future of our country, and they're representing themselves as someone who they're not.

I think it's appropriate in a campaign to point those out.

In terms of things that have to do with personal stuff, yes. At the end of the day, you know? That's not something I'm entirely proud of. My kids were embarrassed by it, and you know? If I had to do it again, I wouldn't, but not on the other charges. Not on the other things.

When it comes to the fact that he is portraying himself as something that he's not, and has done this before throughout his career, this time the stakes are not a worthless $36,000 dollar degree at Trump University. The stakes are the greatest nation on Earth, and on that I think I'm well within the (INAUDIBLE)...


TODD: Do you regret the school yard stuff?

RUBIO: You know why? Because in the end what happened is, first of all, I think he had to be stood up to, I really do believe that. But, that said -- that's not the campaign I want to run.



TODD: You didn't look comfortable doing it.

RUBIO: He needed to be stood up -- this is a guy that basically offended everyone for a year. I mean, literally, Mark, a disabled journalist, a female journalist, every minority group imaginable, on a daily basis. I mean, you'll run -- he used profanity on the stage.

That said, yeah, I don't want to be that. If that's what it takes to become President of the United States, then I don't want to be president. I don't think that's what it takes to be president. I know it's not what it takes, it's not what we want from our next president, and if I had to do it again I would have done that part differently.

But, not the stuff about his record on business. I think that is legitimate, and the people need to know that what they are electing is not who he says he is.


TODD: Alright, let me bring up Adrian (ph) Amerinie (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Chuck.

My question for you, Senator, is you received money from hedge fund managers like Paul Singer, and Mega-corporations like Geo Group (ph), a private prison corporation. How often are you influenced by money from hedge funds and private prisons on issues like immigration and tax reform.

RUBIO: None because my agenda's in writing. I'm the only candidate that has an extensive agenda online, I also have an extensive agenda laid out in my book, "American Dream". So, when someone gives money to my campaign, they're buying into my agenda. I'm not buying into their agenda.

I mean, it's there to be held accountable for.


Everybody understands -- has contributors. Every issue in America has money on both sides of it, everyone in this race, even Donald Trump who says he's self-funded has loaned his campaign $17 million dollars, which means he expects to be paid back by contributors.

So, you have to be willing to say look, here's my agenda. And, because of my agenda, there are people that don't support me.

I had $40 million dollars of attack ads run against me. That was not $50 dollar contributions. Those were multi-million dollar checks that were written, and used to try and defeat me in this campaign. Those people had interests, some of them were hedge fund people as well.

So, ultimately I take a clear position on issues. You can hold me accountable to where I stand, and people who support my agenda, or oppose it, there are people that support it, and there are people that oppose it. And, in America you have a First Amendment right to participate in the process that way.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) (OFF MIKE) I'm sorry, Chuck, candidates like Bernie Sanders, they don't receive any money from any interest group, unless it's the people. People like sitting it this room. So, how would you compare yourself to Bernie Sanders...


RUBIO: ... Bernie Sanders is a socialist...


RUBIO: And, if you want a socialist country -- I think if someone -- if you want to turn America into a socialist democracy you're going to have to win an election, and we're going to fight you every step of the way. If you want to live in a socialist country, there are dozens of countries around the world you can move to.

I'm going to fight every day to keep America a free enterprise society, so there's no --


TODD: Right quick, before we go to break, if you could change one thing about the campaign finance system after going through all this as a candidate, what would you change?

RUBIO: I don't know. To be honest with you, I don't know.

TODD: Do you think it's broken?

RUBIO: Well, there's a lot of money in politics, but here's the bottom line. If you look at what's happened in this campaign, the dominant feature of the Trump campaign has not been that he ran a bunch of commercials, right? It's been that he's been able to dominate the earned (ph) media. You had the head of CBS saying the other day I don't know if Donald Trump may not be good for America, but he's good for CBS because of ratings.

I think that's true in every one of these networks, so there are millions and millions of dollars of media that doesn't -- that's out there.

And the other point I would make is that every time we tried to run a commercial, all these media outlets charge us. So, we have to raise money.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: Because you guys keep charging us to run commercials, so there's no...

TODD: ... That I hear you. There's no magic wand here.


RUBIO: The first amendment is so broad that it allows people to run ads that are lying about me. They're allowed to do it.

TODD: Speaking of television ads, I'm going to have to run a couple here.

We'll take a quick break, when we come back we're going to immigration, health care, the real policy wonk stuff.


Be right back.


RUBIO: Cubans, who instead of coming on rafts to the -- through the Florida Straits are going to Mexico and then crossing the border to get in.

So people crossing the border from Mexico are no longer just from Mexico, they're from all over the world.

It is a problem. It is a serious problem. Visa overstays are a problem in Miami and -- and in Florida. And it has -- it does have to be dealt with. Until that is dealt with, I don't think we're going to be able to make progress on anything else on immigration.

TODD: You've said that on day one, you would eliminate the DACA order.

RUBIO: Correct.

TODD: Now, I know that doesn't mean it -- everybody is deported on day one. There is a difference and...

RUBIO: It means they can't renew their...

TODD: -- you wouldn't -- you wouldn't renew...

RUBIO: -- permit.

TODD: -- their permit.

RUBIO: Right.

TODD: But when their permit expires, do deportations begin?

RUBIO: I think you always prioritize criminals and dangerous people for deportation. I don't think that -- and -- and now, deportation is -- is the final process in a longer process when someone is in this country without status and here illegally. That -- that's not, you know, the way it's reported sometimes, they make it sound like you have these hit teams out there rounding people up.

That's not the way the process works.

My preferred outcome would be that we bring illegal immigration under control. We prove it to the American people. And then we're able to move forward on the rest of it.

I honestly believe that if we can prove to people that illegal immigration is under control, the American people are going to be very reasonable about what do you do with someone that came here when they were three years old and doesn't even speak another language?

TODD: Right. You want to deal with the Dreamer issue, so why rescind the order?

RUBIO: Well, because it's unconstitutional. And no matter -- look I -- I believe in -- in trying to (INAUDIBLE) this specific order...


TODD: -- do you just believe it's unconstitutional?

RUBIO: No, I...

TODD: Do you believe in the...

RUBIO: Well, no, I believe that...

TODD: -- overall, the policy...

RUBIO: No, I believe that -- that -- that we should do something to accommodate young people who are in this country who were brought here through no fault of their own. But I don't think you can do that in an unconstitutional way.

Look, I would love to cut taxes, but if the president ordered the IRS to stop collecting a certain percentage of taxes, I would be against it, because you can't -- if you undermine "The Constitution," you lose your country.

We have to do this -- we have to solve this (INAUDIBLE)...


RUBIO: -- constitutional way. It can't be by the president doing whatever he wants.

TODD: How quickly of a priority is it...

RUBIO: Well, it's an...

TODD: -- for you...

RUBIO: -- important priority.

TODD: -- for you, though?

Is it -- is it the first 100 days type of priority?

RUBIO: Well, the -- enforcing the immigration laws has to be, securing our border is...

TODD: Because if you're going to rescind the order, then don't you need to immediately have it -- basically, some Dreamer legislation ready to go?

RUBIO: Well, I don't think you can pass anything until you first prove to people that illegal immigration is under control.

TODD: Then how do you...

RUBIO: It's not going to happen in six months or a year.

TODD: Yes?

RUBIO: It takes time. We tried it, um, and it's been tried three times in the last 10 years and it fails every time. And I'm telling you why it fails. You say to people, this law requires a fence, it requires more border agents and they say to you, we don't believe it. We don't think the federal government will do it. We've heard this promise before.

TODD: Yes.

RUBIO: If you don't do it, if you do it and you prove it to them, I think it unlocks the door to...


TODD: -- then you just said how do you ever prove it then?

I mean I -- I just think that...

RUBIO: Yes, well...

TODD: -- you're -- you're moving goal posts here. I'm not saying you...

RUBIO: No, I'm not.

TODD: -- but everybody is.

RUBIO: No, l think you can see when the 700 miles of fencing and walls has been completed.

TODD: You think we have to basically...

RUBIO: I think that...

TODD: -- put a barrier...

RUBIO: -- across 700 miles...

TODD: -- in order to...

RUBIO: -- not the entire border.

TODD: You wouldn't do the entire border?

RUBIO: Across key sectors -- no, because you want to -- what you want to do is you want to funnel traffic to areas that you can control. And -- and that's why -- that's the purpose of fencing, it's not -- it's to ensure that any traffic -- we have legal traffic that comes over the border.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: We have trade.

TODD: A lot of trade.

RUBIO: We have people that -- that come back and forth to shop and do business. So the point is that you want crossings to happen in an area that is controlled and monitored. And right now, you have porous areas and it is -- and it's inviting trafficking groups to bring people across the board.

TODD: Let me go to Daniel Bray (ph) here.

He's got the next question, also on immigration.


RUBIO: Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL BRAY: How are you Senator Rubio?

How are you Chuck?

RUBIO: I'm good.

BRAY: Um, if you were (INAUDIBLE) base immigration policy, wouldn't you be showing -- I mean, you know, shutting out your people like your parents?

RUBIO: Yes, well, you wouldn't shut them out, but it's a different process, no doubt. My parents came in 1956. The world is a different place from 1956.

When my parents arrived in the U.S. in 1956, my dad had a fourth grade education, maybe. My mom had about the same.

If they came today, under those circumstances, they would really struggle to succeed, because in the 21st century economy, unless you have a certain level of skill or education, it's very hard to find a sustainable job.

So we always change policies when times change. And immigration policy is no different. And so today, in the 21st century, immigration policy has to be primarily based on merit.

That doesn't mean everyone is a PhD. It does mean that before you come in, you should be able to prove what skills are you going to bring to the US. It also, by the way, would open up more green cards for graduates from our universities, who are graduating at the top of their class in sciences and technology and other fields, and then they can't stay.

It -- that doesn't mean there won't be a family-based component to it. There will be. But the priority and the base of the system needs to be merit-based, absolutely. It's not the same system when my parents came across in 1956, because nothing looks like it did 60 years ago.

TODD: Thanks.

Thank you, Daniel.

I want to ask you a quick one.


TODD: H1-B visas.


TODD: There has been some controversy. For instance, Disney brought in a whole bunch of people on H1-B visas and essentially made some Americans -- put them out of work...

RUBIO: Correct. And it's wrong.


RUBIO: But I'll tell you how that's happening.

TODD: You're -- you're -- but you're an advocate of -- mostly an advocate of these visa (INAUDIBLE)...

RUBIO: But that's like saying I want to get rid of handicapped parking stickers because I saw some guy abusing the handipack -- handicap parking sticker.

The H1-B program is not the central issue. The central issue is abuse of it. And here's how the abuse is happening...

TODD: There's a lot of abuse of it.

RUBIO: Yes, there is. But here's how they're doing it. They're not -- a -- Disney or other companies, they hire an outsourcing agency...

TODD: Yes.

RUBIO: -- like this company, Tata. It's a consulting agency. These companies control an inordinate number of visas. So you're not even hiring the workers, you're hiring the company. The company is then bringing them in as contractors. They don't even work for Disney, they work for the company. That's how they get around the H-1B requirement that you're not replacing Americans.

So I think there has to be reforms to limit the number of visas controlled by these consulting companies, but also to require a stricter enforcement on whether or not, in fact, you are hiring people to replace American workers.

It is illegal now to use H1-B to replace an American worker.

TODD: We're driving down -- we're driving down wages from...


TODD: -- the really good jobs. And the wages might be pretty good. A $150,000 job goes down to an $80,000 a year job...

RUBIO: But that's illegal now. To hire someone now from abroad to replace an American is illegal under the law now. And so that's a process of law enforcement, of catching companies that are doing that using the consultancy group and the outsourcing loophole and punish them. And say if you do it once, you're going to face a very stiff penalty. If you do it twice, you'll be forever prohibited from using the H1-B program again.

TODD: Politically, do you accept the premise that your work with the gang of eight has made your campaign a little more difficult?

RUBIO: Well, we've been attacked on it, but the bottom line is that I tried to solve a problem. I went to -- I told people -- when I ran for the Senate...


RUBIO: -- I told people...


RUBIO: -- that I was going up there to do two things, to stand up to the Obama agenda but also to offer an alternative. So in 2013, I was a member of a Senate controlled by Harry Reid and there was going to be movement on immigration. And I said I'm going to get involved and try to make it the best possible legislation, as conservative as I possibly can, because the way this process works is even if the Senate passes a law, it has to go the House, controlled by conservatives, and they're going to make it better.

And that's what I was saying at the time. It's not what I'm saying now. It didn't work that way. The House never took it up. And so the Senate bill is the only thing that happened. I never believed the Senate bill should be the final law. I was hoping the House would take it up...

TODD: You now (INAUDIBLE)...

RUBIO: -- and make it better.

TODD: -- you may be out of step with where your party is right now.

RUBIO: Well, look, it's -- the problem is worse today than it was three years ago. In essence, we continue to have an illegal immigration problem. We still don't have a fence. We still don't have the 20,000 new border agents. Usual have 12 million or 13 million people here illegally. I argued then we've got to do something, it has to be done the right way. I tried to do something. It's a messy process.

At the end of the day, you know, our republic...

TODD: Is this something that has to be done bipartisanly?

I mean this is a -- I cannot imagine one party being able to jam this through.

RUBIO: Well, I think if I'm president of the United States, it's not going to look like the Senate bill. It's going to be our way and it's going to be our way and it's going to begin. I -- look, I was very skeptical even at the time about being able to do it comprehensively. And I'm very clear, when I'm president of the United States, the first thing we're going to do...

TODD: You don't believe in comprehensive anymore...


TODD: -- do you?


RUBIO: -- you can pass it. I really don't believe that the support is there and at this point, after two executive orders...

TODD: Yes.

RUBIO: -- and a migratory crisis with a -- with minors on the border, they're -- I don't think coo -- comprehensive has any chance of passing any time in the near future and we're wasting time.

TODD: All right. Speaking of time, let's take another break.


TODD: When we come back, health care, the economy, hello Cuba.


TODD: Be right back.



TODD: (INAUDIBLE) town hall with Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

Six days before the crucial Florida primary.

As the senator himself said, it's always about Florida, isn't it?

RUBIO: Florida...

TODD: In some form or another, it's always about Florida. It's a...

RUBIO: We like it that way.

TODD: -- I take it is a badge of honor, as a Floridian.

RUBIO: It is. Yes.

TODD: The next question, I believe, Eduardo Leon (ph) has it?


TODD: Has it. And it's one Cuba.

Go ahead.

LEON: Good evening, Senator.

RUBIO: Good evening.

LEON: As a Cuban-American business owner, um, I'm curious to know, would you roll back all of the changes Obama has made regarding Cuba or would you keep some of them?

RUBIO: Probably all, because there are -- I think there are -- they're...


RUBIO: -- I think they're illegal.


RUBIO: Relations between...


RUBIO: -- relations between -- we -- we have to get back to this idea of rule of law in this country. Relations between the U.S. and Cuba are regulated by law, the Helms-Burton Act, the Democracy Cuba -- the U.S. Democracy Act.

The -- these are laws that regulate any sort of changes. And it outlines how there can be a change between relations between the United States and Cuba.

It requires reciprocal measures on the part of the Cuban government.

So I ask, why couldn't we have gone toward Cuba the way we did toward Myanmar, or Burma, whatever the right term is these days?

Um, if you look at the opening toward them, the U.S. makes diplomatic recognition. They made some economic openings. And in exchange, the government there, a dictatorship, allowed a political opening. And today, the opposition party is the majority in their legislative branch.

By no means am I arguing that they're New Zealand or Canada Australia. But they're a lot better than they used to be because it was a requirement.

We made no requirements in Cuba of any political openings or freedom of the press or respect for human rights. So the result is that the situation in Cuba today for human rights and democracy continues to deteriorate on the hope that somehow American business and American tourism is going to lead to a political change. It will not. All it will do is provide more resources for a dictatorship to now carry out a transition and become permanent.

So I will roll back those changes. And then I'll say if there's going to be a change in U.S.-Cuba relations, it must be according to law as it was written by Congress and it should be reciprocal.

TODD: What do you roll back?



TODD: Well, the travel -- the -- the travel bans, we roll everything back...

RUBIO: First of all...

TODD: -- or is there some stuff you keep in place?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, Cuban-Americans have been allowed to travel to Cuba for a long time.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: The problem we have now is that people are going back to -- the problem we have now is this. You have people coming from Cuba and they say they're here coming as exiles. And then they travel back to Cuba 42 times a year.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: And so the question is, if you're in exile, why are you going back 42 times a year?

How does that distinguish you...

TODD: You're not an exile any longer.

RUBIO: -- from any other migratory group?

So that -- number one. That's number -- you have today people living in Cuba...

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: -- that came to the U.S. a year and a day later, became U.S. residents, qualified for all sorts of assistance from the U.S. government, and are living in Cuba. And their check is being deposited in a U.S. bank account. Their relatives are taking the money and wiring it back to Cuba.

That's an abuse of the system and an abuse of our generosity. So...


RUBIO: -- that's what this has opened the door to now.


TODD: So what's the better solution?

Rolling back what the president has done or do we get rid of wet foot, dry foot?

Do we reform...

RUBIO: Well...

TODD: -- so that two -- that basically Cubans, uh, have to be under the same immigration laws as everybody else?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I would say to you that we need to close that loophole that allows people to come into the US...

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: -- claim residency and then live in Cuba and get...


TODD: -- that would change that.




RUBIO: That's why I support it.

But the other point I would make to you is I've always said that the Cuban -- the -- the -- the, uh, the Cuban Adjustment Act, uh, is endangered given the current patterns that we see.

There are people, Cubans, that are legitimately freeing -- fleeing oppression. They're -- and -- and those people should -- we should remember -- continue to receive them. But -- and then there are people that are abusing the system. And that's why I do think the Cuban Adjustment Act should be revisited.

Wet foot, dry foot is just the way that the law is implemented. They're saying that if you allow -- if you land on U.S. soil, you get...

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: -- to stay. If they catch you at sea, they send you back. That's just the way they're applying the law. That's not a law. That's a policy.

TODD: Do you buy the argument that the Obama administration makes which says, um, doing what they've done with Cuba has improved relations with the rest of Latin America and -- and, more importantly, they will argue, has actually helped to isolate Venezuela in a way that you couldn't...

RUBIO: Well, I...

TODD: -- isolate Venezuela before?

RUBIO: No. I mean Venezuela is isolated because they're run by a -- a crazy guy and they have no money.


RUBIO: They have no money. That's why they're isolated.

TODD: But if Cuba is close to the United States, that's farther away Cuba is from Venezuela.

RUBIO: But being close to -- Venezuela has no money. They're bankrupt. I mean it -- they're -- they've destroyed the economy. So Cuba can be as friendly as they want to Venezuela. They didn't care about being friendly, they wanted the -- the oil.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: They wanted cash...

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: -- because they need it to survive and they needed it for subsistence. So that was not going to change.

As far as the rest of Latin America is concerned, I don't know. I mean our relationship with Argentina improved because they elected a better president. Our relationship with Colombia is solid. Our relationship with Panama is strong. Our relationship with Honduras and Guatemala is good. Our relationship with El Salvador is mixed. Our relationship with Mexico is largely unaffected by our relationship with Cuba.

So I think that's a myth that somehow it's improved. The only difference is when we go to the Summit of the Americas, we don't have to sit through a...

TODD: Get lectured.

RUBIO: -- 30 minute speech about get rid of the, uh, you know, embargo. But in terms of...

TODD: That's not a small thing, though, is it?

RUBIO: It's a small thing.


RUBIO: In terms of public policy, all those countries still want to have a good relationship with the United States.

TODD: All right, we're going to move on here.

Brandon Rodriguez, you have the next question.

BRANDON RODRIGUEZ: Good evening, Senator Rubio.


RODRIGUEZ: Mr. Todd, I'd like to thank both of you for being here...

RUBIO: You've got it.

RODRIGUEZ: -- for hosting the town hall.

So I first have to say that I'm a strong advocate for maintaining and advancing as an energy superpower.

However, rising sea levels have become a concern for many citizens here in Florida, as well as citizens of other states in New York and California.

What are your views on this and what will you do as president to assure us a habitable future?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, you're having flooding and we've had flooding here for a long time. I remember Sweetwaters, just a few blocks away from here. They used to have massive flooding 20 years ago, before they put drainage in.

I live in West Miami, which was basically waterfront property 25 years ago any time it rained. So we've always had flooding issues, because we happen to live in a swamp that's been filled in and -- and now we have people living here.

Now, if there's rising sea level and it's impacting flooding, I'm in favor of mitigation programs. I think that's important. Of course we want to do all that.

But I think you're getting at a broader question, is that what public policy can we pursue?

And I would say to you that I do want to lead the world in every -- in energy resources. I want us to fully utilize oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, wind, solar, biofuels. I want to lead in all of them.

I want the U.S. to be number one in every source of energy, have the most diverse portfolio possible and allow the private -- and allow the market to choose which one makes sense.

Um, but as far as what impact it's going to have on a climate, not even the most stringent advocate, if they're being honest, of these laws could tell you that you're going to see a measurable difference in sea level any time in your lifetime or mine.

On the other hand, if we pass laws that mandate things on our economy, there will be a real economic cost associated with it. So I would say to you that innovation and technology is already basically driving us in the direction that people concerned about sea level rise want us to go.

My only argument is allow the market to drive it, not government mandates.

TODD: Where are you on climate change?


RUBIO: That's a measurable thing.

TODD: Manmade?


RUBIO: Well, there's my -- first of all, the climate is always changing.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: This notion that the climate used to be the same for 1,000 years and now it's different, climate is always changing.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: What man's contribution is to it, you know, that's what -- people are arguing about it all the time in terms of most scientists say man has contributed to it. They can't agree at what percentage.

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: But I can tell you this, none of the laws they want me to pass would do a thing about it.

TODD: But you believe that it's still your responsibility to deal with it?

RUBIO: Well, look -- if you have...

TODD: When it comes to mitigation?

RUBIO: -- flooding in Miami Beach, you've got to deal with it. We've had flooding in West Miami where I...


RUBIO: -- lived -- live 15, 20 years ago. We dealt with it.

TODD: Is South Beach over developed?

I mean part of this is are we putting -- are we risking too much, uh, of the economy...

RUBIO: Well...

TODD: -- by -- but you -- by developing to the point where if a small flood could create...


RUBIO: -- look, we're developing in coastal areas in this country...

TODD: Yes.

RUBIO: -- because people want to live near the water. And, uh, it's too...


TODD: -- shouldn't those folks help pay for the mitigation?

RUBIO: Yes, I'm not going there. You know, I mean that -- they'll have to figure that out locally, because the bottom line is, that's already there.

You know, what are you going to do now?

Are you going to roll back Miami Beach 100 years?

Look, Miami Beach, by the way, is an artificial island.

TODD: Yes, I know.

RUBIO: I mean it -- it's a barrier that was built by...

TODD: It's a barrier island.

RUBIO: -- by dredged. It's there now. It's a key part of our economy. We're going to protect it. We want to protect it. We want it to continue to be a vibrant place to live. It's there. We're going to -- we need to deal with it and we will.

TODD: All right.

Adriana Rodriguez?


TODD: She has the next question.

A new topic.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for being here today.

RUBIO: Thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: My question for you is earlier last month, uh, the Florida House approved a campus carry bill that would allow handguns on college campuses.

What is your view on this policy?

And how would you regulate it to make sure that students and professors are safe?

RUBIO: Well, I take that, uh, if you have a law, uh, law-abiding people will follow it and criminals will ignore it. If, God forbid, this afternoon, some lunatic or someone who has mental illness or a dangerous criminal decides try to come on the campus of this university, God forbid, and harm someone, they're not going to care that it's illegal to do it. They're criminals. They're going to violate the law.

The only people that follow laws are law-abiding people. I am a gun owner. So if the law says I can't do something, I won't do it.

But these thugs that are shooting up our communities, it is already illegal to shoot up our communities. So they don't care if it's illegal to have a gun on campus, they'll bring it on campus, because they're criminals.

So I would just say to you that on -- on the realm of that, here's why it's difficult. Think about it this way. I'm a gun owner and I like to drive in my car and have a gun in the car. And -- for my protection. But I have to go to FIU's campus.

So what do I do when I get to Southwest 107th Avenue?

Do I drop the gun off in the bush and park my car and then come back out and pick it up after class is over?

You can't. So that -- that's why the laws are justified, because you won't people to be able to have their -- be able to protect themselves to and from work or to and from school. It's not just on campus. It's being able to not have to throw it out.

That said, uh, it is illegal to -- to use a gun in the commission of a crime and criminals don't care, because they're criminals.

TODD: All right. There we go.



TODD: All right, we're going to sneak in another break.

When we come back, a little more in-depth on the economy and housing.



TODD: We are back. Welcome back to the MSNBC Town Hall. I'm here with Republican Senator Marco Rubio six days before the Florida primary. And I'm going to talk about an issue that is pretty big here in South Florida when it comes to all things having to do with the economy and what happened with the financial collapse. And Vicente Cortese (ph) has the next question. Vicente (ph)?

QUESTION: Good evening, Senator, good evening, Chuck. Now my question is the financial crisis of 2008 was caused in part by the irresponsible actions of banks and lenders. Although we currently see economic recovery, experts say most problems were simply thrown under the rug.

As president, what course of action will you take to prevent another economic meltdown?

RUBIO: Yeah, it's a good question. First of all, I was personally impacted by it. I bought a home in 2005 in Miami. Anybody who bought a home in 2005 bought at the peak of the market. And a year-and-a-half later, I did nothing wrong -- in fact, I improved the home, but it was worth less than the day I bought it. And my neighbor went into foreclosure because he died of an illness and -- or his family went into foreclosure, and that reset the prices in the neighborhood as well.

Again, none of us were in trouble, none of those homes had been foreclosed except for that untimely death, and yet, our home was worth less a year-and-a-half later than the day we bought it because of these actions.

It -- I think there are a lot of culprits here. The federal Reserve is a big part of it. The Federal Reserve understood that there was an overheated housing bubble, and they kept interest rates low artificially nonetheless. In essence, they kept goosing up the market, the housing market, despite the fact that they knew, or should have known, that interest rates were too law. Banks created -- and lending institutions created very exotic packages for lending and then they packaged those and sold them as commodities -- or sold them as tradable goods. And then add to all of that, a law that basically required these banks to create these sort of packages because we wanted every American to own a home even if they couldn't make the payments. And the result is the housing crisis.

So I think the best way forward is twofold. Number one, to have a rules-based system for our Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is not supposed to run our economy, it is a central bank. It is supposed to maintain the stability of our currency and it should have very specific rules that trigger when interest rates go up and when they go down, or when they stay the same.

And number two, very simple rules to regulate banks that have a very clear capital requirement of how much banks need to hold in reserve, very clearly delineated, not complicated like what you have now, so that every bank has a sufficient amount on reserve to avoid these sort of practices, but it's not so complicated that local lenders and regional banks and community banks can't comply.

It is not a coincidence that after Dodd-Frank, local banks, regional banks, small community banks are being hurt -- they're disappearing while big banks are bigger than they've ever been, because complex laws help big industries at the expense of small ones.


TODD: You know, a lot of the fervor behind Trump and Sanders is this whole we - people feeling we got the shaft. Nobody went to jail. Do you think that's a problem?

RUBIO: Well if they committed a crime, they should go to jail.

TODD: But there was - but the attitude has been unfortunately, there was no law on the books, that whatever they did was all actually technically legal...

RUBIO: Well look...

TODD:...and it shouldn't have been.

RUBIO: Well, but you can't -- and here's the bottom line, is that well it was legal, it was legal, I don't think it was right. Just because something's legal doesn't make it right. So there are people that probably did things that are - did things that were immoral and wrong and they cashed out knowing that their practices were unsustainable. But that doesn't make it illegal, it makes it negligent, it makes it irresponsible, it makes it immoral, but that's different from saying illegal.

If someone committed a crime, they should go to jail, they should not be protected because of who they are or what influence they might have. But it has to be a crime.

TODD: You know, one of the things Miami is experiencing is something that some other major cities - Washington experienced it, New York City is experiencing it - foreign money comes in, raises property values to the point where average middle-class residents here in Miami can't afford to live here.

RUBIO: That's right. One, they're paying cash...

TODD: And -- right. The foreigners come in, they pay cash. And again, it's good for property values short-term, but we know...

RUBIO: Well it's good for the seller, it's bad for the buyer.

TODD: That's right. And it's not good for average working people who are looking for a place -- to own a home.

RUBIO: And largely that's...

TODD: So what do you do?

RUBIO: Well -- and largely, the answer to that comes from local government or a combination of things. Number one is, you know -- and this is going to get complicated, but I did a lot of zoning work early in my legal career, and part of it is the density requirements of development.

I mean, if you -- if you create a -- for example, the highest and best use of a waterfront property is not going to be, you know, affordable residential housing...

TODD: Right.

RUBIO: ...it's going to be high-rises with good views that are expensive. But in other communities, you have to make it -- you have to have zoning and comprehensive planning laws that make it feasible to create workforce housing and family housing for a developer who is only going to take on the risk of a project if, number one, they can -- they can get a good rate of return per square foot; and number two, if they can qualify people to buy.

I still think rental stock is important. Not everyone is at a stage in their life where they to be buying, so you also have to make it cost-effective for rental housing and rental apartments and so forth to be cost-effective. But a lot of that is a function of local government, it is not really a federal issue other than the banking and the interest rates and things of this nature.

TODD: All right, let's go to the next questioner. David Neighbors (ph) I think has a question about the Supreme Court.

QUESTION: Hello, Senator.

RUBIO: Yes sir.

QUESTION: I'm an aspiring law student, so...

RUBIO: My condolences.


QUESTION:...issues pertaining to our federal judiciary are of particular importance to me. But I feel that a lot of people, especially people my age, don't fully grasp the importance of those issues.

Last month, our country suffered a great loss with the passing of Justice Scalia, and it seems that the next president is going to be in a position to appoint multiple justices to the High Court. So can you speak a little bit about the importance of appointing principal conservatives to the Court, and also about what the qualities you would look for in potential appointees.

RUBIO: Well people say conservative, and I believe that, but I think the -- what you really mean is someone who understands that the Constitution is not a living and breathing document, it is a document that is supposed to be applied as originally meant.

The job of the Court is not to change the Constitution, the job of the Court is to apply it. There is a way to change the Constitution, it's Article 5, and it provides for amendment process. And we've had amendments in this country.

There are a couple I'd like to see. I'd like to see term limits on Congress, I'd like to see term limits on the courts.


I'd like to see a balanced budget amendment. But I don't think a court can impose that. So I do believe that irrespective of the personal views of a -- of a judge, of a justice at an appellate level, their job is not to be policymakers, their job is to apply the Constitution as originally meant.

And I think it's important for people to understand that if the Constitution ends up meaning whatever you want it to mean in any given time in our history, then it becomes meaningless. It is a document of limitation, it limits the power of the federal government, it reserves most of governmental power to the states and we need more judges, and that's the kind I'll appoint, that understand that and do it that way.

QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.


TODD: You said something interesting. You want to get rid of the lifetime appointment. What would you make -- do you have an idea in mind? What would you make the term limit of a federal judge?

RUBIO: Well...

TODD: A Supreme Court judge? Is it 20 years? 25 years? Is it a generation?

RUBIO: Well, I mean, I don't know. I'm open to whatever it is. But I mean...

TODD: But you think there should be a limit.

RUBIO: There should be a limit. I don't believe that someone should be in any position in perpetuity. I mean, one of the arguments in favor of it at our founding was that it makes them immune to pressure, you know, that -- you know, if you're on the Court...


TODD: ... . back then, and...

RUBIO: Yeah, but I just think that...

TODD: Do you think that had something to do with it?

RUBIO: I guess.


RUBIO: ... life expectancy of quite less than it is now, but my point is that, you know, I think that term limits are good. Now whether it's eight years, 12 years in the legislative branch, I don't know. But I think it is good --

Our system was built for people that were not in there for 50 years, it was built for people that have some real life experience that come and go back out.

TODD: Right. Let me ask you about a litmus test. Overturning Roe v. Wade, would you ask a potential Supreme Court nominee that question?

RUBIO: You know, no nominee...

TODD: What do you ask, what is -- what tells you that's going to be somebody that's going to...

RUBIO: Well first of all, I want to make sure that...

TODD: ... be a Scalia conservative?

RUBIO: Number one, I'm going to make sure they have the intellectual capacity to defend their views and their ability to express it. One of the things that made Scalia very effective is he was an excellent communicator of his ideas and his positions. Some of his...

TODD: So you think matters a little bit? A little bit of charisma, a little bit of communication skills...

RUBIO: Well, you know, it's not verbal.

TODD: No, I understand...

RUBIO: It's writing. He's able to express -- and the clerks do a lot of the work, but I think it's important to have someone who has the intellectual capacity to express their views, whether in the majority or the desent (ph), and also, by the way, that influences the other, that has the ability -- which Scalia was able to do and the ability to understand and comprehend complex issues, number one.

Number two, I want to make sure that it's someone that has the view of the Constitution that I do, that it is a document of limitations to be applied as originally meant, and I would like to see a record of having believed that way. As far as how they would rule on a particular case, no nominee will answer that question. No -- no...

TODD: So does Justice Roberts not have enough -- in hindsight not have enough of a record to make you comfortable?

RUBIO: Well, I don't -- you know, I wasn't involved in his nomination process...

TODD: I understand that.

RUBIO: ... so I don't...

TODD: But that has come up in this campaign...

RUBIO: Right, and I -- I haven't gone back and looked at what his record was before then. I believe he was in private practice. And so again, I would like to see someone...

TODD: You want more of a track record.

RUBIO: I want someone that has a proven record, whether it's in academia or on the bench, of defending the -- applying the idea that the job of a Supreme Court Justice is to apply the Constitution according to its original meaning, not to reach policy conclusions they'd like.


TODD: Alright. Speaking of limitations, one more break. Be right back with more with Marco Rubio here in Miama, Florida on the campus of Florida International University.



TODD: Alright. We've got our final minutes here with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and I'm going to end where we began, a little bit of state of the campaign, state of -- of your political ambition, a little bit.

First of all, there's some reports that Jeb Bush is having a meeting with you, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, the four of you getting together before the debate tomorrow night. What can you tell us about this meeting?