By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Republican Party's rising star Senator Marco Rubio on Wednesday outlined his position on the Middle East in a discussion aimed at showcasing himself for a 2016 White House run.
In a talk at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he paid special attention to Iran, saying he believes the country is seeking a nuclear weapon.
"We will not allow that to happen," said the Latino senator of Florida, reflecting the thoughts of many Republicans. Iran continues to claim its nuclear program is peaceful amid U.S.-led sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic's economy.
Rubio's appearance Wednesday came amid a GOP scramble to revamp its image from the party of old, white men to a party that includes minorities and women. Republicans lost 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in last November's presidential elections.
The fractured party is now struggling for relevance amid a changing U.S. demographic landscape whereby whites will become the country's minority within the next three decades, according to the U.S. Census.
Striking a softer tone, Rubio said Americans "live in a global economy... whether we know it or not," and added that the U.S. standing in the world is largely built on human rights and freedom.
The senator was also careful not to challenge President Barack Obama's Middle East policy, perhaps in a bid to play it safe this early in the game.
Earlier this month, Rubio addressed the nation in both English and Spanish - a historical first - in a televised official Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address on Feb. 12.
That speech came a week after House majority leader Eric Cantor made an overture to Hispanic voters, calling for a path toward citizenship for undocumented workers whose parents brought them to the United States as minors.
The statement demonstrated an obvious departure from the stance of former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who vowed that if elected, he would veto Dream Act legislation, a bill that grants legal status to illegal migrants brought to the United States by their parents as minors.
"Senator Rubio is interested in a presidential run," said Darrell West, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
"He is putting himself in front of high-level audiences and traveling around the country. He is someone who has reasonable name identification and good fundraising prospects. And as one of the Republican Party's top Latino voices, he will be on a short list of possible presidential candidates."
Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been making the rounds on Sunday television talk shows in what analysts say is also an early effort to get out his message for a 2016 White House run. Jindal, of Indian decent, would paint a picture of a more inclusive Republican party that mirrors modern, multicultural America, analysts said.
Pundits and political forecasters predict former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will run for president in 2016 on the democratic ticket, which means Republicans are forced to showcase their most serious candidates such as Rubio and Jindal, rather than candidates who have little chance of competing with Clinton.
Clinton, an American political icon and popular former first lady, would be tough to beat, analysts said.
Obama's re-election sparked a period of soul searching among the fractured Republican party, with Jindal calling on the GOP to stop being "the stupid party," referring to incendiary remarks by former Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, which embarrassed Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney.
The U.S. is undergoing a major demographic shift as minority births last year for the first time surpassed those of whites. In order to survive and thrive, the GOP knows it must do more to reach out to groups not typically associated with it, analysts said.
Ironically, many of the party's rising stars are minorities - Jindal is of Indian decent and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, who spoke at the party's National Convention last August, is Mexican-American. But critics say the GOP has done a poor job of getting its message out to minority voters.