CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Florida Senator Marco Rubio is standing up to special interests.
That is, if you consider golf a special interest.
"By all accounts -- listen, hear me out -- [Barack Obama] appears to be a very good father, he appears to be a very good husband, and because he practices a lot, he appears to be a very good golfer," Rubio told 400 supporters here a steel factory. "You know I got a letter last week from the golf association saying not to tell that joke anymore? So I hope they're listening."
He was referring to We Are Golf, the group that took umbrage when the Florida senator made the joke during his primetime speech at the Republican National Convention. The organization, which is made up of players and industries that benefit from the game, sent Rubio a letter asking him to stop mocking the president's penchant for golf, a common GOP zinger.
Dave Marin, a spokesman for We Are Golf, told The New York Times that the golf joke "reinforces misperceptions of the game that don’t square with the facts — and because those misperceptions, in turn, have led to unfair legislation and regulation.”
The group has sent similar letters to other politicians, both Republican and Democrat.
Campaigning for Mitt Romney here on Wednesday, Rubio rebuffed critics in the golf industry who asked him to stop taking swings at President Barack Obama for spending time on the links.
It was not the only sports reference Rubio made to the crowd, most of whom were steel workers. He also called Obama a losing coach.
"I don't know how many of you are sports fans, but if my coach has four years of losing records, I'm not signing him to a four year contract extension," he said.
In the last month, Rubio has hit the trail as a surrogate for Romney. While visiting swing states, including Ohio and North Carolina, he has also stumped for senate and congressional candidates; on Wednesday, he attended an event for North Carolina congressional candidate Robert Pittenger. Such moves could elevate Rubio's status as a GOP kingmaker, and help him develop allies if he decides to run for the White House.
Regardless of his future, Rubio's message of American exceptionalism on Wednesday was aimed getting the Republican nominee into the White House.
"We are not going to become like the rest of the world," Rubio told a roaring crowd. "That's the message you can send this election by electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."