Updated at 9:07 p.m.

MIAMI -- Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said Saturday that it is up to the people of South Carolina, not "outsiders," to decide whether to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds, declining to echo Mitt Romney's call to remove it.

"This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do," he told reporters.

Rubio said he supports the 2001 decision by then-governor and now-opponent Jeb Bush to move the flag from the capitol to a museum in Florida.

But as a state House member in 2001, Rubio was one of the sponsors of a measure to prohibit the "relocation, removal, disturbance, or alteration of a monument, memorial, plaque, marker, or historic flag commemorating or memorializing specified wars and military engagements," including the Civil War, "permanently displayed on public property of the state or any of its political subdivisions."

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told the Huffington Post that Rubio, "along with four other Cuban-Americans, two African-Americans, and a Jewish Democrat co-sponsored this legislation” to protect "war monuments."

In his most expansive remarks on the deadly mass shooting at a black church in Charleston that has sparked a national debate over the flag, Rubio said the white man charged with the killings "carried out an act motivated by racial hatred."

"It's an atrocity. It's a horrifying instance," said Rubio.

He said the suspect "is full of hate in his heart."