DALLAS (CBS11) – At the beginning of Marco Rubio’s rally in Dallas, a heckler shouted anti-Semitic remarks at the Republican presidential candidate.
The man said, “Marco Rubio is owned by Jews. Jews. And Free Masons.”
The crowd quickly shouted him down by chanting “Marco, Marco, Marco.”
Rubio joked that this is the first time he’s seen a heckler, and said if it happens again, he’ll take a sip of water, referring to the time he sipped bottled water during the Republican response to a State of the Union address by President Obama.
Rubio said what’s great about this country is that “people can say outrageous things, and not be arrested.”
His campaign estimated at least 800 people came to the Westin Dallas Park Central Hotel ballroom to hear the Florida Senator.
During his speech, Rubio said he supports increasing border security and cracking down on sanctuary cities, those that violate federal law and shield illegal immigrants.
Rubio has faced sharp criticism from fellow candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz for being a part of the Gang of Eight Senators who fought unsuccessfully to create a path of citizenship for those who entered the country illegally.
On Wednesday, Rubio said there’s a reason he’s taking a tougher stance on illegal immigration. “This issue is fundamentally changed because we now have a radical, apocalyptic, jihadist group that is using our immigration system against us. ISIS is trying to use our legal immigration system against us.”
Rubio does support giving illegal immigrants a path to becoming legal.
During his speech, Rubio avoided criticizing any of his Republican challengers.
He called for a balanced budget amendment and term limits for members of Congress and for federal judges.
Rubio believes the Constitution as it was originally written.
He criticized President Obama and his former Secretary of State and now Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and their policies.
Rubio’s trip to Dallas comes less than one month before the first in the nation Iowa caucus.
He’s a top tier candidate, and when you look at the polling averages by Real Clear Politics, he’s in the top three not only in Iowa, but in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But with no ties to Texas, Rubio trails far behind Cruz and billionaire Donald Trump in the Lone Star State, which has 155 delegates up for grabs during the March 1st Super Tuesday primary.
Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says Rubio has a good shot at the nomination because of his position in the polls, but the real test will start when the first votes are cast. “He’s running second in a lot of states. But at some point, he has to break through and actually win somewhere.”
Heath Cheek is the chairman of the group Young Professionals for Rubio in Dallas. “I’m really excited he’s here, he’s a great candidate – like whenever you meet him, you feel like he’s a real genuine person, not just a stage-managed phony, like most politicians that you see.”
Cheek, like many people in the crowd, say they like Rubio because they believe he’s the only Republican candidate who can beat Mrs. Clinton during the general election.
“He represents a generational shift. For me, the most important goal is we have a Republican in the White House. It doesn’t do us any good to have someone who’s 100% ideologically pure, if he can’t win.”
Wilson says Rubio may be in the sweet spot between ideological purity and electability. “In a lot of ways, Marco Rubio is the ideal general election candidate. He has credibility among conservatives, but he’s not so stridently conservative that alienates people in the middle.”
Texas Democrats criticized Rubio Wednesday for missing votes in the United States Senate.
But Rubio’s campaign rejects that and repeated that he’s the candidate the Democrats don’t want to run against.
This was Rubio’s fourth visit to Dallas since last March, but his first public event.
He attended a private fundraiser Wednesday evening at the Dallas home of Tom Hicks.
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack