Anderson, S.C. — Marco Rubio traveled here with his newest political best friend to begin making his final arguments before Saturday’s Republican presidential primary.
Rubio and Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed the Florida governor just a day before, thrilled several hundred voters packed into a hotel ballroom. The goal was clear: Maintain an upward trajectory.
Asked why she backed Rubio over Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Haley gave a classic Southern answer that as much praised one while slipping the knife to another.
“Jeb is a dear friend,” she told reporters. “This is not about picking friends. It’s about picking who you think would be the best president. I pick people based on whether they can fix our country. This is about fight. This is about passion.”
Somewhere, Donald Trump smirked about Bush’s “low-energy” campaign.
Rubio began Thursday as the sole possessor of momentum in this state. Yes, Donald Trump is and has been the favorite to win, but in the race for second-place, Rubio has every reason to smile.
With Haley at his side, Rubio has support from perhaps the most popular triumvirate of Republican elected officials in this state: Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Anderson is in the Upstate of South Carolina, about 50 miles west of Greenville. The Upstate is known both for the explosion of manufacturing over the past two decades and for being the most evangelical region of the state. Rubio was aware.
“Anyone who denies that our Judeo-Christian values have helped shape the direction of this country are not following history,” he said. “If there’s no Creator there are no rights.”
And: “If I become president, you’re going to have a president that will never be ashamed to say this: All human life is worthy of the protection of our laws at any stage in their life.”