ELKO – It was standing room only for people listening to presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, who spoke about the American dream, public lands and caring for veterans Monday in the Elko Conference Center.

The Florida senator told the 800-plus crowd that the election is “a lot more than a choice between two parties.”

He said the 2016 election is “a referendum.”

“What you’re going to be asked to decide, starting tomorrow, is what kind of country is America going to be in the 21st century,” he said. “That’s what’s at stake here.”

He said he understands what life is like outside the U.S. because he was raised by immigrants.

“In almost every country on this planet, in the history of the world, people were born into societies that said to them, ‘you can only be whatever your parents were before you,’” Rubio said. “… America was different. I believe it began at our very founding, when in our founding documents and in the Declaration of Independence, those incredible individuals wrote the powerful words, that all men are created equal because we are endowed by our creator with the right to life, and to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness.”

He said this principle, that our rights come from our creator, “led to over 200 years of exceptionalism.”

Rubio said President Barack Obama wants the U.S. to be more like other countries.

“He doesn’t just ignore the Constitution, he undermines it,” Rubio said. “He violates it, habitually violates it. He views the Constitution not as a document of limitation. He doesn’t view the Constitution as a document to be interpreted as originally written. He views it as a flexible document. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. If the Constitution means whatever you want it to mean, it means nothing at all.”

Rubio said he doesn’t believe there is a federal government answer to every problem in the country, and he got the crowd laughing as well as applauding when he spoke about public lands.

“We don’t need a federal government that owns literally 80 percent of this state,” he said to thunderous applause. “How many acres do we really need to store the alien bodies from Roswell? May need a few acres for that, but the rest, we should open it up, to not just state governments, but to the private sector. That was a joke in case the media is wondering. The aliens are actually somewhere in Texas. Elvis is in Nevada.”

He also spoke about the country’s responsibility to its veterans. He asked all the veterans in the audience to raise their hands and thanked them for their service. The crowd applauded when more than 15 people raised their hands.

Rubio said 25 percent of the calls to his office as a senator are from veterans fighting with Veterans Affairs. He said there are “good people” at the VA, but those who aren’t doing a good job should be fired.

He said veterans should be put in charge of their own health care.

“When I am president, our veterans will be able to use their VA benefits to go to any hospital or any doctor that they want to go to,” he said.

He said many veterans come home and continue to serve by becoming firefighters and law enforcement officers. He thanked the first responders for what they do for the community.

If he is elected president, Rubio said he would be a president who embraces the Constitution and the people’s First and Second Amendment rights.

“If you elect me president, you’re going to have a president that defends your Second Amendment right to protect yourself and your families,” he said.

During his speech, Rubio called out the Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rubio said Sanders is a socialist and Clinton is not qualified to be president.

“We don’t want to be a socialist country,” Rubio said. “If you want to live in a socialist country, you should move to a socialist country.”

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He said Clinton lied to the families of the men who died in Benghazi.

“Anyone who lies to the families of Americans who have lost their lives in the service of our country is disqualified from ever being the commander in chief of the United States of America,” he said to applause.

He told the crowd he is the conservative candidate who can win.

“I am proud of my record of turning conservative principles into conservative action,” he said.

He said the Republican Party must come together to win the general election.

“I can bring us together faster than anyone running,” Rubio said. “But I won’t just bring us together. We’re going to grow this movement.”

Rubio said he can take the GOP message to people who are living paycheck to paycheck and to young people with student debt and parents trying to raise children, because he has experienced it all.

“If you make me president of the United States we are going to embrace the principles that made us great in the first place,” he said. “We are going to return to the Constitution. We are going to return to free enterprise. We are going to keep you safe. We are going to empower families and parents.

“… Every single day, I will be a president for all Americans. I will never pit you against each other in order to win this election. I will never ask you to be angry at one group of Americans so that you vote for me, because at the end our president must be the president of all Americans, even the people that don’t like you.”

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