Rubio Dismisses Debate Criticism, Cites Increase in Fundraising

  • Remarks on Obama called canned `What I believe in,' he says
  • Attempt to reform immigration an attempt to solve problems

Senator Marco Rubio speaks during the Republican presidential candidate debate sponsored by ABC News and the Independent Journal Review at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Senator Marco Rubio, portrayed by competitors as having wilted during Saturday’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, said his fundraising reached new heights during the event and that he’d keep repeating remarks about President Barack Obama that opponents panned for being overly scripted.

“It’s what I believe in, and it’s what I am going to continue to say,” said Rubio, who also defended his foreign policy expertise and record on immigration during an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Rubio’s stronger-than-expected third-place result in Iowa -- he received 23.1 percent of the vote, several points above levels indicated before the Feb. 1 caucus -- made him a marked man at Saturday’s event in Manchester, the final Republican debate before the state’s first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9.

The first-term senator from Florida bore the brunt of attacks from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and others who hope to supplant Rubio as the main alternative to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and businessman Donald Trump, the top two vote-getters in Iowa.

During the debate, Christie accused Rubio, 44, of spouting a “memorized 25-second speech” over and over on the campaign trail, and being incapable of moving beyond talking points because of his lack of executive experience.

Fundraising Spike

Christie appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to continue the assault. “I’m glad the American people are getting to see this before they make a mistake,” he said. If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Rubio would “crumble” in a debate with her, Christie said.

Rubio brushed off speculation he’d been damaged on Saturday in a state where many voters are still making up their minds ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “We raised more money last night in the first hour of that debate than any other debate,” he said.

Rubio also defended his experience, saying he had been more consistently correct on foreign policy issues than other candidates, and that his efforts to find middle ground on the divisive subject of immigration was an attempt to get things done in Washington.

“I saw an opportunity to do the best we could” in a Senate that at the time was controlled by Democrats, he said. “That’s not the way we’re going to do it when I’m president,” Rubio added, saying he’d stress border security before working on any immigration deal.

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