Marco Rubio fires up CPAC

The right's Florida star fires up the annual conservative conference in Washington

Topics: CPAC, 2010 Elections, War Room,

CPAC, the annual conference for right-wing activists hosted by the American Conservative Union, is a special place. It’s the kind of place where you can get a standing ovation for calling to abolish income taxes on interest. The kind of place where you can stand in front of a Teleprompter and mock President Obama for using a Teleprompter, without blinking. And the kind of place where the nation outside the hotel ballroom, America under Obama, may as well be Cuba.

At least that was the message Marco Rubio, the conservative wunderkind who’s likely to put Florida Gov. Charlie Crist out to pasture in this year’s Senate Republican primary, gave in his keynote speech Thursday morning.

“Do I want my children to grow up in the country that I grew up in?” Rubio asked what must be the largest crowd CPAC has ever assembled. “Or do I want them to grow up in a country like my parents grew up in?” And yes, for those of you scoring at home, that would be Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

Rubio’s speech alternated between gauzy boilerplate about his working-class immigrant background (“Why did my dreams have the chance that [Rubio's grandfather] didn’t? The answer is simple: Because I am privileged. I am privileged to be a citizen of the single greatest society in all of human history”), and paranoid predictions about the nature of the federal government and the people running it. “They have used a severe recession as an excuse to implement the statist policies that they have longed for all this time,” Rubio said, smiling coolly. “They are using this downturn as cover, not to fix America but to try to change America.” Not surprisingly, for a guy running what started as a longshot insurgent campaign against the GOP’s establishment pick, Rubio didn’t limit his fire to the Socialists Democrats in Washington. “The U.S. Senate already has one Arlen Specter too many,” he said. “America already has a Democrat Party, it doesn’t need two Democrat Parties.” For that matter, the 2010 elections won’t even just be a contest between Democrats and Republicans: “It’s not just a choice between liberals and conservatives, 2010 is a referendum on the very identity of our nation.”

You Might Also Like

But for all the dreaminess associated with Rubio’s capaign in the conservative world, his policy prescriptions were the same old stuff audiences at CPAC have lapped up for more than 30 years. Cut taxes on the ways rich people make money, like interest, dividends and capital gains (and, of course, the estate tax). Roll back corporate taxes. Let “the American innovator” take care of things like climate change. Cut federal spending at home, and throw a few more dangerous Muslims in prison at Guantánamo from overseas.

It didn’t matter, though. Rubio left the room to a hero’s ovation, and his chief political patron in Washington, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, told the crowd afterwards he’d rather have 30 Rubios with him in the Senate than 60 Specters. (It’s shaping up to be a tough few weeks for Specter, who wasn’t popular with CPAC types even before he flipped to the Democrats.) “Marco! Marco!” people chanted as he walked out. And as everyone sat down again, after applauding their new champion, they found — on every seat in the massive hotel ballroom — an envelope to send money to Rubio’s campaign. Florida may not have Crist to kick around much longer. But Rubio looks like he could be here for a while.

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>