Associated Press: Senate Hopeful Rubio Takes Campaign to Seniors

August 10th, 2010 By Jackie Larena-Lacayo

by Matt Sedensky

Senate hopeful Marco Rubio courted Florida’s important senior demographic Friday, calling for a crackdown on scamsters who target the elderly and saying private Medicare plans should be protected from cuts.

In his visit to the campus of Miami Jewish Health Systems, a nursing home and health care center, the Republican said prosecutors should increase their focus on those who perpetrate financial crimes on seniors.

Speaking to a small group of seniors, Rubio said both Social Security and Medicare benefits must not be cut. He singled out the privately administered Medicare Advantage program, which Rubio said his parents were covered by and must be preserved.

Rubio incorrectly said the plans were not subsidized. They cost taxpayers 14 percent more, on average, than traditional Medicare.

“The bottom line is the programs improve quality of life,” the former state House speaker said.

Outreach to older voters is important in Florida, which has a higher proportion of people 65 and older than any other state and a total population of about 3 million seniors that is second only to California. An estimated 43 percent of people who voted in the state’s general election in 2006 were over the age of 60.

Taking questions from reporters, Rubio refused to wade into Florida’s gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, saying the Republican Party would unite behind the choice of voters. But he did address the debate over a proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York City.

“No one’s debating whether they have a right to build it or not a right to build it. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “The folks that are behind that initiative say that their goal is to provide unity and to bring Americans together and to foster understanding. And proposing a mosque on that site has not done that.”

Rubio spent the most time during his visit to Miami Jewish talking with one of its oldest residents, 101-year-old Tilly Harris, who enchanted him with stories. She proclaimed Rubio young and handsome, but only after he left did she reveal her political inclinations.

“Always a Democrat,” she said.

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