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CPAC: Why Marco Rubio could be the real winner (+video)

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Rubio’s speech was mostly focused on the economy, and he sounded almost Obamaesque in his discussion of the middle class and education. He spoke of a family he knows that wants to reach the middle class, but with parents who lack the training for jobs that would get them there.

“They're not freeloaders. They're not liberals,” Rubio said, winning some laughs. “They're just everyday people that want what everybody else wants…. They want a better life for themselves and an even better life for their children.”

Except for the slap at liberals, that could have been President Obama speaking. Rubio also played it safe on immigration, making no mention of the issue, his new support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or his role in the Senate trying to forge a bipartisan consensus.

Paul’s posture was more that of an outsider, attacking Mr. Obama and the Washington establishment (of both parties), highlighting his recent 13-hour filibuster over drones, and issuing populist appeals to the young and libertarian-minded.

“Ask the Facebook generation whether we should put a kid in jail for the nonviolent crime of drug use, and you'll hear a resounding no,” Paul said. “Ask the Facebook generation if they want to bail out too-big-to-fail banks with their tax dollars, and you'll hear a ‘Hell no.’ ”

He also tried to outdo House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, calling for a budget that reaches balance in five years. (Congressman Ryan’s budget gets there in 10.) And he called for elimination of the Department of Education, echoing President Ronald Reagan from 30 years ago.

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