Marco Rubio Stars at CPAC

Rubio talks up tax, regulatory reform.

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It's pretty easy to see why Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is on every GOP presidential candidate's vice presidential shot list. The freshman, Cuban-American senator laid out a passionate, succinct, and unifying conservative agenda more effectively than any of those actually vying for the presidency have thus far, during remarks he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.

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"What is the conservative movement? It's pretty straightforward. We believe that the way prosperity is created is when people have the freedom and the opportunity to pursue their dreams," Rubio said.

Keys tenets of the current conservative movement are tax reform, regulatory reform, energy independence, and religious freedom, he said.

"We understand you have to have taxes. You have to pay for the national defense. But the tax code should not be an impediment to the creation of jobs and economic opportunity," Rubio said.

Yes, clean air and clean water are important, he said, but regulations have to make sense.

"They can't exist just to justify the existence of an agency," he said. "They can't put you at a competitive disadvantage against the rest of the world."

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And on energy, Rubio touted America's own resources as a solution and referenced the Obama administration's decision to turn down a permit for the Keystone Pipeline proposal to create a natural gas pipeline.

"America doesn't have an energy policy, it has energy politics," he said. He added that he supports energy efficiency and innovation.

"You've invented a way to turn roses into gasoline? That's fantastic," he joked.

In one of his most appreciated statements, Rubio attacked the Obama administration on the recent controversial decision regarding religious institutions that offer private insurance to employees and contraception.

"He issued a mandate, ordering religious institutions to follow his ideas, telling religious organizations that they must, by mandate of the federal government, pay for things that that religion teaches is wrong," Rubio said. "Now you may not believe what that religion believes, but that's not the point. The point is the first amendment still applies. Religious freedoms exist. This isn't even a social issue, this is a constitutional issue."

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Rubio also distilled the essence of why conservatives loathe the recent arguments President Barack Obama has been making in favor of an increased tax on millionaires.

"Unlike any other leader in modern American history, we are led today by a president that has decided to pit Americans against each other," he said. "The basic argument that he is making to our nation is that the reason why some of us are worse off that we used to be is that other people are doing too well; that the only way for some of us to do better is for other people to do worse. That the only way for some people to climb the political ladder is for other people to be pulled down."

Rubio accused the president of making the class warfare argument in a "calculated effort to win the election" because he had to run from his own record.

"Here's the problem – the words do matter, especially when they come from the highest office in the land," Rubio said. " And that idea that the only way for some people to do better is for other people is to do worse, that's what other countries believe. That's the kind of though process that other people come here to get away from."

Rubio wrapped his speech referencing his family, which emigrated from Cuba, a fact that only serves to make his remarks all the more effective.

"My father, my grandfather – I think they were better men than I was. And yet they never got to accomplish their dreams," he said. "The difference is that I was born with the privilege and the honor of being a citizen of the single greatest nation in all of human history."

Email: rmetzler@usnews.com

Twitter: @rebekahmetzler