MERRILLVILLE | State Treasurer Richard Mourdock brought one of the GOP's rising stars — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida — to speak Monday to Northwest Indiana Republicans.
Mourdock, who shocked the nation last month with his margin of victory over U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, told a luncheon gathering of Republican leaders and supporters at the Radisson Hotel he hopes the party can unite behind him in the fall.
Mourdock, who faces a fall campaign against Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly, said, "I have never been an enemy of Sen. Lugar." He asked the crowd to reject efforts to paint him as a candidate of the extreme right and instead see him as a mainline Republican who only wants Washington, D.C., run like Indiana state government.
Rubio told the crowd Mourdock's election is part of the party's strategy to recapture the U.S. Senate. He told one luncheon guest Republicans need to hold Indiana's seat in the Senate as well as capture at least four Democratic seats this fall.
Rubio has been mentioned as a possible vice president candidate this year.
Mourdock said he is inspired by Rubio's passionate views. "I never met him before this morning but he makes me feel better about the upcoming opportunities this fall."
Rubio scored his own upset victory to win a Senate seat in 2010 over then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek.
Rubio and Mourdock reportedly have won support from the conservative Tea Party movement.
Rubio, whose parents were Cuban immigrants, also answered questions about how to bring more Hispanics into the Republican Party and to address the divisive immigrant debate.
"There is no national Hispanic vote bloc. A large number of Hispanics in Los Angeles are traditionally part of the Democratic Party. We need to work in states where Hispanics have no entrenched political identity. We need to make a compelling argument to Hispanics and identify ourselves as the party of upward mobility," Rubio said.
He said the U.S. can neither offer amnesty to nor deport about 8 million undocumented workers. He criticized Democrats for allowing the crisis to fester and painting Republicans as an anti-immigration party.
"We support legal immigration and a system where people can enter the country for a defined period of time," Rubio said. He said businesses would benefit from a better documentation system that clearly defines legal immigrants they can legally employ.
Rubio said Republicans also must unite to defeat President Barack Obama. He said Obama no longer is the symbol of hope and change.
"Our people's resilience and inventiveness is why we still keep our heads above water," Rubio said. "Imagine how much better things would be if only we had government that was semi-competent."