Two of the GOP’s leading 2016 presidential prospects, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, delivered back-to-back speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, underscoring two divergent plans for retooling the Republican party.
Rubio, who took the stage with the music of teen boy band New Direction playing in the background, wants to repackage traditional conservative values with a more culturally savvy spin that will appeal to a wider swath of voters. Paul is capitalizing on the energy from his recent filibuster to talk civil liberties and slam the administration. He made an explicit play for the young voters who had been the base for his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
As the audience stretched their arms overhead to catch a photo with their iPhones, Rubio spoke directly to middle-class voters, promising that he understands they need a champion, knowing they don’t want to take anything away from anyone — an allusion to Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark. He asked: “Who’s looking out for them?”
With Metallica blaring in the background, Paul picked up right where his 13-hour filibuster left off, much to the delight of the additional crowds holding “stand with Rand” signs who flooded in after Rubio spoke.
“Mr. President, good intentions are not enough. We want to know: will you or won’t you defend the Constitution?” Paul asked. “If we allow one man to charge Americans as enemy combatants and indefinitely detain or drone them, then what is it exactly that our brave young men and women are fighting for?” It was a pessimistic view of a world where, he argued, American soldiers have fought to protect a Bill of Rights that Obama has ignored.
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