KENTWOOD (AP/WXMI) — In his first campaign visit to West Michigan, Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio told the crowd he can unify Republicans before the November election and appeal to Democrats who "never" vote for GOP candidates.
The Florida senator spoke Tuesday night during a rally at a Lacks Enterprises, an auto supplier in Kentwood, two weeks before the Michigan's primary.
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who co-chairs Rubio's Michigan campaign, introduced the candidate.
“Marco has just impressed me, he just relates to us here in West Michigan," Huizenga told FOX 17. "As a father, as sort of a younger generation, that Reagan revolution child, that really is what resonates with me.”
Rubio was in Michigan the same night the GOP caucuses were happening in Nevada. While Trump is polling in first place, the race for second is expected to be close between Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz.
Speaking to the crowd of roughly 1,500 supporters, Rubio said Republicans must win the presidency and he was the best choice to do that, adding the GOP race "cannot be about just making a point" by electing an outsider.
While he never mentioned his Republican rivals by name, Rubio did take an apparent swipe at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump when he told the crowd that he himself didn't become a conservative when he thought about running for president. He urged voters to look past candidates who exude anger or a willingness to say outlandish things.
“I didn’t just become conservative a year and a half ago when I decided to run for president," Rubio said. “Anger and frustration will not solve our problems. We can’t just elect someone who is angry, we have to elect someone who will make a difference.”
Rubio said he would rebuild a "gutted" U.S. military but de-emphasize the federal government's role in other matters, leaving those issues to state and local governments. He also criticized President Barack Obama's effort to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, promising that he will ship terrorists to Guantanamo when he's president.
“If we capture any of these terrorists alive, they’re not going to have the right to remain silent," he said. "They’re not getting a court hearing in Manhattan. They’re not going to Michigan. They’re going to Guantanamo.”
Rubio has framed the 2016 election as a "generational choice" and told his Michigan audience that it's time for "our generation to rise up and do our part."
Michigan's primary election is March 8.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.