Sen. Marco Rubio hammered President Barack Obama today in a speech that appeared to be equal parts pep talk to the conservative movement and an audition for the vice presidency.
Addressing the annual Conservative Political Action Conference gathering in Washington, D.C., the Florida Republican delighted the crowd with red-meat conservative issues, kicking off with a standard joke about Obama’s use of teleprompters before picking apart the administration’s economic and foreign policies.
Rubio, who was swept into office in part on the strength of his tea party support, quipped that when he first arrived in the Senate two years ago he was star struck.
“And then six months later, you look around and think ‘Man, how did they get here?’” Rubio said to laughter from the crowd for taking a shot at his Senate colleagues.
Rubio, who has been courted by presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as a vice presidential candidate, lashed out at Obama and seemed to give a preview of what he might say and do if he were included in the GOP ticket.
“Looks like he’s a really good father, looks like he’s a really good husband, but he is a terrible president,” Rubio said of Obama.
On the economy, Rubio argued that, “Everything got worse, so he cannot run on his record.”
“What we have seen is unprecedented in American history. ... We are led by a president who has decided to pit Americans against each other,” a decision Rubio said was “a calculated effort to win the election.”
“That’s the kind of thought process that people come here to get away from. And it’s never worked anywhere it has been tried,” said Rubio, the son of immigrants from Cuba.
On Medicare, Rubio was equally as critical, arguing, “His plan is to wait for a Republican like [Budget Chairman] Paul Ryan [Wis.] to offer a plan, and then attack him.”
Rubio also took the White House to task over the administration’s new contraception insurance policy, which has angered Catholic leaders.
Rubio accused the administration of “ordering religious institutions to follow his ideas.”
But, Rubio said, “The first amendment still applies, religious freedom still exists. ... This isn’t even a social issue, this is a constitutional issue.”
The Floridian also peppered his remarks with repeated references to God and the Founding Fathers while dismissing progressivism and Democratic ideology as little more than the butt of a joke.
For instance, at one point Rubio cracked that the GOP primary is “more a fight over who’s more like Ronald Reagan. The Democrats never fight over who’s more like [former President] Jimmy Carter.”
Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, holds his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem as he waits to take the stage for his town hall campaign rally with Sen. John McCain at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.