Rubio told viewers that he is firmly planted in the middle class, a legacy from his bartender father and a mother who worked as a cashier and maid, who came from Cuba “in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at even a better one."
“Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in," he said. “My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They are retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re immigrants who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy."
He added: “Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors."
At one point Rubio paused for a quick sip of water. He went on to assert that Obama’s proposals will hurt middle-class families, cost jobs and harm senior citizens because they do “nothing to save Medicare and Social Security."
“In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn’t have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need," he said. “Instead we should grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves."
While Obama implored Congress to vote on gun control legislation, Rubio acknowledged “the rise of violence in our country," but he warned against weakening the Second Amendment.
In the aftermath of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s crushing loss to Obama and a disappointing showing by Republicans in last November’s senatorial elections, Rubio has increased his profile and stature within the party and nationally.
Republicans, recognizing that they failed to connect with enough Hispanic voters in part because of the party’s opposition to a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, hope the son of Cuban immigrants can help the party heal from what some leaders say are self-inflicted political wounds from failing to be more inclusive.
Rubio has been working with a bipartisan group of senators who are pushing for immigration legislation that would include a pathway to citizenship and enhance security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Overhauling immigration laws, he said, is essential for economic growth.
“We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally," he said. “But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws."
In his remarks on behalf of the tea party, Paul also touched on immigration, urging tea party supporters to embrace efforts in Washington to change the system.
Paul also had harsh words for Obama, Democrats and his own party on federal spending, and for their reluctance to take a realistic approach in cutting it.
“Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone wins, but every taxpayer loses," he said. “It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud."
Paul advocated letting the sequester, an $85 billion round of automatic cuts that would take effect March 1 if Congress fails to act, happen.
“Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America credit rating," he said. “Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess."