Chattanooga Free Press announces its endorsement for president

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, spars with Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right as Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson listen during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by ABC News at the St. Anselm College Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Manchester, N.H.
photo Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., shown speaking in Chattanooga last September, offers the best choice among presidential candidates for the Republican Party.
Tennesseans have an opportunity on Tuesday to cast their Republican presidential primary vote for a man who is not only a committed conservative but also the candidate who has polled the best for months against Democrats in the general election in November.

That man is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and we endorse his nomination and his election in November.

People say every four years that the upcoming presidential election is the most important one in the country's history. After seven years of radical, divisive, class warfare, against-the-will-of-the-people rule by President Barack Obama, the statement has merit in 2016.

Rubio offers an opportunity to turn that page to energize the American workforce, strengthen the country around the world, widen educational opportunities, staunch the porous Southern border from illegal immigration, grow the Republican Party and, just as importantly, make people proud of their country again.

It's tempting just to make the case why current GOP delegate leader Donald Trump would not make a good president - his lack of true conservative principles, his absence of depth on issues critical to the country and his profane, indecorous demeanor among the reasons.

But Rubio's attractiveness as a candidate, his all-American story of paying off college loans and raising four children, his energy of being a generation younger than Trump and both Democratic candidates, and his passion about the country as the son of two blue-collar Cuban immigrants all recommend him.

Just as critical, though, are his stances on the issues. The following are just a few:

* Rubio wants to cut taxes on businesses 25 percent, put a ceiling on the amount regulations can cost the economy and fully use the country's energy resources.

* He vows to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with consumer-centered reforms that will expand coverage and lower costs.

* Rubio wants to focus on immigration security to stop the threat from Islamic State terrorists and reform the outdated U.S. immigration system.

* He says he'll modernize the U.S. military and intelligence community because, he believes correctly, strength is a means of preventing war.

Although pundits and his presidential primary foes have attempted to shove Rubio into the "establishment" wing of the Republican Party, he is in fact a limited-government conservative. His 94 percent conservative rating from Heritage Action puts him in the top six in the entire Congress.

Indeed, when he was elected to the Senate in 2010, the party establishment backed then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and he had to come from as many as 30 percentage points behind to win.

Rubio also has had to battle the label of "inexperience," but, at three years younger than Obama when he was elected president, he has a more established track record. Where Obama was a back-bencher in the Illinois state Senate and an inconsequential member of the U.S. Senate for four years, Rubio was a city commissioner, state representative (where he was majority whip, majority leader and then House speaker) and then U.S. senator, where he has been especially active in foreign relations, for one term.

Is it too late for him, though? Doesn't Trump already have the nomination sewn up? Hardly.

Bill Clinton did not win any of his first four primary/caucus battles in 1992 and won only one of the first 10. Obama didn't win three of his first six contests in 2008, and John McCain did not win four of his first six the same year. Though the road gets tougher without a win in each subsequent primary or set of primaries, the fewer candidates in the race the better Rubio will do.

The Florida senator also is piling up endorsements from former candidates in the race, from other senators, from governors and from previous office-holders who understand his potential and is consistently considered by all voters as the most likely Republican candidate to defeat the eventual Democratic nominee.

In fact, where generic ballots at this point in most elections favor Democrats, the latest average of national polls by Real Clear Politics shows Rubio up 4.7 percent on Hillary Clinton, whereas she leads Trump by 2.8 percent and is down to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by less than 1 percentage point.

For governance, for soundness of mind, for electability and for the best opportunity for the country to return to the "shining city on a hill" that former President Ronald Reagan often spoke of, we encourage a vote in the presidential preference primary for Marco Rubio.


In Hamilton County Republican primary races, the Free Press editorial page recommends:

* For Criminal Court judge: Tom Greenholtz.

* For assessor of property: Randy Johnston.