By Ben Kamisar
Republican presidential candidate Marco RubioMarco RubioPoll: Trump up by 2 points in Florida GOP vulnerables dial back Hillary attacks The Trail 2016: An important lesson in geography MORE says Democratic hopeful Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhite House contest casts shadow over mega-merger Fed pressures Congress to spend Warren’s power on the rise MORE' political leanings belong in another country.
“I think Bernie Sanders is a great candidate for president — of Norway," Rubio said Saturday at the New Hampshire GOP's First In The Nation presidential town hall in Nashua.
The Florida senator's barb comes just weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, as Sanders closes his gap with Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPoll: Trump up by 2 points in Florida Senior House Republicans fighting for their lives GOP vulnerables dial back Hillary attacks MORE in Iowa and continues to gain strength in New Hampshire.
Republican candidates have mostly focused on bashing Clinton on the stump, almost ignoring Sanders, but he's drawn increased attention from the GOP as he rises in the early states.
But Rubio did not hold his fire on Clinton, repeating his belief that Clinton is "disqualified' thanks to her use of a private email server and that she "lied" to the families of the victims of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack, a line that's become one of his favorite from the stump.
And he framed the Democrats in general as the cause of the "overtaxation problem in America."
"Their solution to everything is taxes. Concussions in football? Let's put a tax on it," he joked.
"You want to know why businesses are leaving America? We have one of the most tax-crazy environments in the world."
Rubio also contrasted himself with other Republican candidates. Ted CruzTed CruzThe Trail 2016: An important lesson in geography Webb: The race to 270 Potential Cruz challenger: 'Don't close off your options' MORE was the main target of that criticism, as Rubio implicitly swiped at his support of a Value Added Tax and accusations that he supports cuts in military spending.
"The most important thing the federal government does is supposed to keep us safe. The world is a dangerous place ... [but] in the face of this growing danger, they are gutting our military," Rubio said of the Obama administration, before pivoting towards unnamed GOP rivals.
"I find it unacceptable that people running as Republicans who have voted to spend even less."
It was a seeming shot at Cruz, whom Rubio has accused of voting for a budget that cuts military spending. Cruz has brushed that aside, noting that he's voted for an amendment specifically offered by Rubio to raise military spending.
During a question-and-answer session, Rubio also pushed back at the onslaught of negative advertising he's faced from both Republicans and the Democrats.
"There have been $25 million spent in attacks against me. That didn’t come from $20 checks, those were multimillion-dollar checks raised to attack," he said, noting that he's been told to wait his turn and that he's too young to run for president.
"Every time we listen to the people in Washington who say this is who we should nominate, we lose," he added.