WASHINGTON — Senator Marco Rubio offered a glimpse at new-school conservativism Tuesday night, showing a reflexive comfort with everything from women in combat to Pitbull's MC stylings, but a Republican Party line on the definition of marriage and action to prevent climate change.
"Women are already in combat roles whether we admit that or not, and we need to have our best people doing the job," Rubio said during a wide ranging interview with Buzzfeed. "If that person happens to be a women why would we not want that?"
But while he may have flashed a progressive streak on one cultural issue, Rubio, 41 and in his first term, was clearly in the old school camp when it came to LGBT issues and immigration.
"I think if that issue becomes a central issue in the debate it's going to become harder to get it done because there will be strong feelings on both sides," he said, adding that he thinks marriage should be defined as between one man and one woman but suggesting that he's comfortable to leave that definition to the states.
Likewise, while Rubio was able to talk about rapper Pit Bull and his capitalist flow, on climate change he's still squarely in the camp of conservative skeptics.
"I've actually seen reasonable debate on that principle," said the leading contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination of man-made climate change.
Welcome to the new world of Republican conservatism, an unusual but compelling hybrid of contemporary sensibilities and old school values.
When asked about climate change, even as he avoided talking about the science behind it, Rubio was firmly skeptical that government action could have any notable, positive effects.
"Anything we would do on that would have a real impact on our economy, but probably, if it's only us doing it, a very negligible impact on the environment."
"There has to be a cost-benefit analysis to every one of these principles people are pushing on, and the benefit, I think, is difficult to justify when you realize that it's only us doing it, nobody else is doing this."
Rubio was firmer in his acceptance of the science behind brain damage from concussions in the NFL — although he doubted Congress could act to curb such injuries.
"The idea that Congress, that can't even pass a budget, is going to solve concussions in the NFL is doubtful," Rubio said.
Rubio, whose net worth puts him roughly in the middle class, said he sees a clear difference between himself and some of his wealthier colleagues in the Senate, most of whom count their cash in the millions.
"My standard of living is a lot closer to the people I serve than the people I serve with," Rubio responded.
The conversation was lighter at times, such as when Rubio's own Spotify playlist led to a discussion of pop culture.
Rubio was well-versed in rap music (he prefers Tupac) and popular hits (he called Pitbull by his real name, "Armando") — but when the topic of Ryan Seacrest came up, Rubio needed to pause before he remembered the television host.
"That's the dude from New Year's Eve," the Florida senator finally concluded.