On Feb. 29, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio made a pit stop in Knoxville to reach out to voters just one day before Super Tuesday. Scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the TAC Air Hanger in Alcoa, the U.S. Sen. from Florida hoped to share his vision for “A New American Century” and win over the Tennessee vote.
Maryville College senior Espy Yanez saw an article about Rubio’s visit and quickly sent out an email to encourage students to attend the event. Yanez, a member of the Pre-Law Society, saw this as an opportunity to hear a law school graduate speak as well as an opportunity to promote an event that might bring together Republicans on the campus.
“I wanted to go because he is the only candidate who is truly conservative,” Yanez said.
Several MC students arrived at TAC Air early Monday morning in hopes of getting to the front row and taking pictures with the Senator. The students had the opportunity to hear from Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander, who both declared their endorsements for Rubio. After the rally, Haslam told a News Sentinel reporter that he supports Rubio because “he can help America remember who we are.”
The media coverage of the race for the 2016 Republican nomination has greatly focused on Donald Trump, the current frontrunner. Trump visited Knoxville in November, declaring his intent to “make America great again.”
MC junior Trey McNear attended both the Rubio event and the Trump event, which he felt were very different.
“[The Trump rally] felt like an entertainment event with the amount of people, music and people’s reactions,” said McNear. “[The Rubio rally] had a very pleasant atmosphere.”
He also had the opportunity to meet both of the candidates after their speeches, and while he was impressed with their willingness to speak directly with attendees, he felt that Rubio seemed more “genuine.”
In planning the trip to Rubio’s rally, Yanez wanted to make sure people knew the benefit of hearing a candidate in person.
“Even though you can read about the rallies on the internet or watch them on television, you can’t get the full experience that you get in person,” Yanez said. “One aspect that I wouldn’t have gotten from television at this particular event was the prayer and the pledge of allegiance we did as a crowd before Rubio spoke.”
Erin Ensor, a junior, agrees with Yanez about the importance of seeing candidates speak in person.
“You can tell there’s passion and sincerity in his words in person that you can only tell first hand,” Ensor said. “You can’t read that passion in an article. I could tell his voice was tired, but he was still going to all these rallies. I got to shake his hand.”
McNear also felt that relying on the media for information can “completely change the meaning of the statement.”
Although the rally was only a day before voting day, Rubio won at least one vote at the rally.
“Yesterday, I didn’t know if I was going to vote for Cruz or Rubio, but after the rally, I will be voting for Rubio,” Yanez said.
The results for the Tennessee polls came in Tuesday night, revealing Trump’s victory with 38.9% of the vote. Cruz followed with 24.7% and Rubio obtained 21.2% of votes.