Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, R, served up a familiar portion of conservative red meat to CPAC attendees on Thursday, endearing himself to activists who could help propel him to a higher political office in the future.
Rubio received a rock star's welcome before speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he used his 15-some-minute slot to extol traditional conservative positions on taxes, education, abortion, same-sex marriage and trade with China.
"We don't need a new idea. The idea's America, and it still works," said Rubio, to major applause, anticipating that liberals would criticize his remarks for offering no new ideas.
Sen. Marco Rubio draws applause from a crowd Thursday at the annual CPAC event.
But the Florida senator declined to ruffle any feathers, too. He didn't even mention the immigration overhaul on which he's worked, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented residents currently in the United States.
Rather, Rubio argued to conservatives that there is no need to abandon their bedrock principles amid a bout of soul-searching within the GOP about how to broaden the party's appeal. The Florida senator repeatedly noted that the world has changed, but made the case for why standby Republican policies should stay the same.
"Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot," he said.
"The people who are actually close-minded in American politics are the people that love to preach about the certainty of science in regards to our climate, but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception," Rubio added.
Providing his prescription for the GOP as it searches for a winning path forward, Rubio said: "Our challenge is to create an agenda applying our principles — our principles, they still work — applying our time-tested principles to the challenges of today."
In essence, Rubio firmly staked himself in the camp of Republicans who argue that the party's makeover is more cosmetic than policy-based.
And the one issue on which Rubio has been willing to defy party orthodoxy — immigration — went unmentioned.