The GOP hopeful addressed the group of several hundred gathered at Manchester's Ultimate Sports Center with the promise that he had the right stuff to unify the fractured Republican Party. The Florida senator's comments ranged from reminding the audience that "our rights come from God" to a promise to ban disco music — with the exception of the Bee Gees and Donna Summer, after protests from a supporter. He made no mention of his struggles during Saturday night's Republican debate organized by ABC News.
Rubio, wearing a zip-up blue sweatshirt and tie, cited his rags to riches story and painted a dire picture of the nation's choices in the 2016 presidential race. The American dream of upward mobility may very well die if the GOP does not recapture the White House, he warned.
"Remember the 1970s (under President Carter) — long gas lines and disco music. Those were terrible things," said Rubio, who was born in 1971.
While Rubio spoke, volunteers set out trays of popcorn, chips, cheese crackers, submarine sandwiches and several dozen Little Caesars pizza boxes, plus slices of cake for dessert. But the grub was off limits until the candidate finished speaking.
The crowd was generally engaged and exuberant and focused on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton as Public Enemy No. 1. One supporter strolled the gathering handing out mini "Stop Hillary" signs. Another presented Rubio with a boxed "Hillary Nutcracker" toy to autograph. He obliged.
Rubio hung around for selfies and autographs of the Marco Rubio placards that were distributed to the crowd. Questions from a gaggle of reporters at the edge of the stage were ignored as the candidate ducked out shortly after the feed of CBS' Super Bowl 50 coverage was blasted on to the big screen TV sets scattered around the space.
After Rubio's exit, the pizza and cake slices began to disappear as the crowd dispersed.
Although Rubio's appearance was brief, one couple who journeyed to New Hampshire all the way from San Diego, Calif., was satisfied with what they saw.
"I like his views on limited government," said Scott Schwab, a retired Air Force official who now works for the Department of Defense. He joked that he might be putting himself out of a job, but he appreciated Rubio's views on reining in the federal government.
Marcy Schwab was quick to dismiss criticism of Rubio during Saturday's debate, when he repeated talking points about what he sees as the dangers of President Obama's economic and political agenda. She didn't take kindly to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie going after Rubio during the debate.
"We don't care for when candidates go after each other," Marcy Schwab said. "We want to hear from them what they believe."
The Schwabs made the trek to New Hampshire this past week specifically for the chance to hobnob and speak directly with the candidates. They're still not sold however on Rubio as Republican choice come June in the California primary, particularly after a cordial meeting with Ted Cruz on Saturday at the candidate's New Hampshire headquarters.
Cruz "was so personable," Scott Schwab said. "He really connects with people on a one-on-one basis."
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