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Praising his military background and business acumen, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio stumped Monday for U.S. Senate candidate John James in Michigan, helping raise the challenger's visibility in his race against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Rubio and James met at a morning tour and rally at a southwest Detroit Mexican restaurant, then headed to a fundraiser after a briefing with reporters.

"You ask yourself, why is this guy running for the U.S. Senate, he's got everything going right in his life," Rubio said at Senor Lopez Taqueria Mexican restaurant. "But we're so grateful that he is, despite being overqualified because our country does really need that sort of leadership in the 21st century."

Rubio, who was one of the first to endorse James' candidacy last year, said James' service to the country in the Army as an Apache helicopter pilot and West Point graduate shows that he "knows what sacrifice means and knows also what it means to be able to work with others to accomplish a goal."

"In practical terms, it means someone who served our nation in uniform and in combat knows how important the decisions are that we make not just in the capacity of our military but how carefully we should engage in (conflict) because the price is often very high in real human terms," Rubio said.

Voters are going to be seeking "authenticity" at the ballot box, Rubio said, and "for John to be himself is a pretty good story to tell. This is someone who understands that at the life level, not the academic level or theoretical level, but at the life level, the challenges that real people are facing every day."

He also praised James as a family man and said it's important to have people in political office who will help families.

"We do not have enough people in American politics that understand these things," Rubio said. "We do not have enough people in the Republican Party yet that understand these things. But we're going to get there one race at a time.

He told James: "I think your candidacy gives us a unique opportunity to add a voice to American politics and to the conservative movement that understands the importance of family, faith, community and the dignity of work, and that can't happen soon enough."

James said that Rubio took "a leap of faith" last October when they met through mutual friends and the Florida senator backed his campaign. James called him "my role model."

"Something that resonated with me initially when we first met was how cool you are under pressure and how you never forgot where you came from even when you went up to the highest," James said of Rubio. "You blazed a path forward that I'm following."

James said he loves what makes America great through its diversity and hard work and touted his combat and business experience positions.

"I believe experience matters," James said. "I believe that having more energetic leadership, having someone with the clarity of vision, having someone with the passion for service on the floor of the U.S. Senate, to support Sen. Rubio and folks who understand compassionate constitutionalism conservatism to make sure that everybody can participate in the American dream is absolutely necessary."

James beat Republican opponent and Grosse Pointe financier Sandy Pensler in the Michigan GOP primary to have the right this fall to face Stabenow, who ran unopposed and who experts believe will be a keen challenge for James.

A spokesperson for Stabenow couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming

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