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Marco Rubio says Trump remark on immigrants "poisoning the blood" of U.S. wasn't about race

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a possible vice presidential pick for former President Donald Trump, defended Trump's previous remarks on immigrants "poisoning the blood of our country" in a Spanish-language interview Wednesday with Telemundo

"I think he speaks that way and in that manner," Rubio said in Spanish, with an English-language translation provided by the network, when asked if Trump could win the Latino vote, despite those comments. 

"There have been Hispanics in his Cabinet, or rather, on his staff. As the press mentions, he's considering one as his vice presidential running mate," Rubio added, in what seemed to be a reference to himself. "He's had very strong ties to the community."

Under further questioning, Rubio claimed Trump's comment was not really about race. 

"That's a saying that he uses, but it has nothing to do with race, because in the end, he's talking about the country, not the population," Rubio said. "The country is threatened by this influx of people, which we now know even includes criminals and terrorists." 

During the interview, Rubio also expressed support for Trump's plans for mass deportations across the country, telling Telemundo "that's U.S. law."

"I'm going to do the big deportation, the biggest ever," Trump said in a recent interview with Fox News. "Eisenhower did the biggest, this will be bigger. But it's a very tough thing. What they've done to our country is unthinkable." 

In 2016, Rubio said carrying out mass deportations for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. was not "a realistic policy," but now he says his views have changed since then.

"My thinking at the time was to find a process for those people that are not criminals while at the same time doing something, so that it never happened again. Now, on top of those 11 million, in the last few years we've taken in 9 or 10 million more people. It's a massive problem and a completely different problem."

Rubio's views on mass deportations are in line with sentiments expressed by voters across the country. 

According to a recent CBS News poll, 62% of voters said they'd favor, in principle, a new government program to deport all undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. 

The Democratic Party sharply criticized Rubio for defending Trump's characterization of immigrants.

"Donald Trump's statement that immigrants are 'poisoning the blood of our country' is the kind of dangerous language used by the likes of Hitler and Mussolini — and Marco Rubio is willing to defend him just for the chance to be Trump's running mate," DNC spokesperson Kenia Guerrero said after Rubio's interview. "Rubio has lost his last shred of dignity just to compete in a race to the bottom to be on an extreme MAGA ticket this November that is wildly out-of-touch with voters who will decide this election."

While Democrats have condemned Rubio's interview remarks as anti-immigrant, Latino political analysts say the Florida senator was an effective messenger for the Trump campaign by delivering Trump's rhetoric in Spanish to millions of Latinos in the U.S. 

"Here you have a potential national vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party, literally doing what no other candidate on this stage is doing," said Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of The Latino newsletter.  

"He just gave an interview in Spanish. He could be a Latino vice presidential candidate. He checks a lot of boxes for the Trump campaign and could be the buffer to Trump's extremism."

Asked about the possibilities of becoming Trump's vice presidential running mate during the interview, Rubio said he has not had any conversations with Trump's campaign on the matter, but says "it's an honor to be considered" and "a great opportunity to continue to serve."

Their relationship hasn't always been a warm one. In 2016, when Trump and Rubio were both Republican presidential candidates, Trump referred to Rubio as "Little Marco," while Rubio mocked Trump over the size of his hands: "You know what they say about men with small hands? You can't trust them," he said of Trump. The two had contentious exchanges on the debate stage, too.

Asked about their relationship, Rubio replied, "It's like asking a boxer why he punched his opponent. We were in competition." He added that he has worked well with Trump during his administration. 

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