Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sought to put a softer face on Republicans' small-government agenda, accusing President Barack Obama of spreading blame for his own administration's shortcomings.
A 41-year-old Cuban-American, Rubio referenced his own experience on matters such as immigration and entitlements. But he also used the spotlight to showcase well-known Republican positions: for a balanced budget amendment, for instance, and against stricter gun control that Obama wants.
"Mr. President, I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich," Rubio said, in a line representative of Republicans' effort to shirk their caricature of a party favoring the wealthy. "I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors."
A rising star within the Republican Party who is regarded as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Rubio used much of his speech to lay into Obama with familiar criticisms. He accused the president of demonizing the GOP for its resistance to the administration's agenda.
"There are valid reasons to be concerned about the president's plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the president's agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives," Rubio said.
Rubio devoted a sizable portion of his address to attacking Obama's proposals on the federal budget. He said that he hoped the president would "abandon his obsession with raising taxes" and instead focus on economic growth.
Rubio's speech sets the stage for this spring's fight over Democratic and Republican proposals to resolve the so-called sequester -- automatic spending cuts to government programs set to take effect March 1.
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