Rubio: ‘My trip to Iowa has nothing to do with 2016′

Dylan Stableford

On Thursday in Washington, D.C., Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sounded very much like he's embracing his role as a rising star in the Republican Party, but he dismissed the notion that an upcoming visit to Iowa puts him on the presidential grid for 2016.

"My trip to Iowa has nothing to do with 2016," Rubio said during a wide-ranging interview at the Atlantic's Washington Ideas Forum. "I'm one of 100 senators."

Rubio noted that when he agreed to attend the Nov. 17 fundraiser for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad he believed Mitt Romney would be the 45th president. Romney's loss in the election, he said, underscored the GOP's need to reconnect with the middle class. "If we don't, we'll have more days like last Tuesday. What makes America vibrant is a middle class. My dad is a bartender, my mom is a maid. ... [But] our country is not creating middle-class jobs" like it used to.

On Wednesday at the same forum, Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham made headlines when they said they would do everything they could to block U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice from being appointed secretary of state should she be nominated for the position. Both have said Rice is "unqualified" and that she misrepresented the events leading up to the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.

On Thursday, Rubio took a more diplomatic tack, saying he would go into a confirmation hearing with an open mind and would not "prejudge" Rice.

Rubio did say, however, that questions about the attack in Benghazi would come up. "I think we need to know the truth," he said.

On the subject of the looming "fiscal cliff," Rubio said both Republicans and Democrats need to take responsibility. "The fiscal cliff is a complete and total congressional creation," he said. "It's bipartisan dumb."

Rubio, who lives in Miami, said it's also critical that the Republican Party not alienate Hispanic voters with a hard line on immigration. "Rhetoric is important," Rubio said. "We're speaking not about statistics, but about human beings."