Marco Rubio: Compassionate Conservative?

| Fri Nov. 11, 2011 7:31 AM EST
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

On Thursday, while the country was digesting the lowlights of the latest GOP presidential debate, some of the Republican faithful were in DC hearing from a lawmaker many Republicans would like to see on the ticket in 2012: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Rubio, who's on the short list of potential vice presidential candidates, didn't disappoint. The man occasionally called the "Cuban Barack Obama" wowed a crowd of conservative Federalist Society lawyers with a speech on the "Constitution of Small Government." It could have been really dry, but was, in fact, almost inspirational.

Rubio was propelled to victory last fall thanks to his wooing of Florida tea partiers with fiery speeches about fiscal responsibility and smaller government. Despite his Cuban ancestry, he campaigned as an immigration hawk. And he even showed little sympathy for extending unemployment benefits to struggling Americans unless they were paid for by budget cuts elsewhere.

On Thursday, though, he didn't sound much like a tea partier. Nor did he echo much of the increasing anti-government rhetoric of the GOP presidential candiates. Instead, he actually acknowledged a place for government, took shots at big business, and—gasp!—argued in favor of a social safety net. He sounded like a younger, smarter George W. Bush, articulating something that sounded a lot like compassionate conservatism. It was clear why the unfunny and often dull front-runner Mitt Romney has said he'd like him as a possible running mate.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.