GOP veep hopefuls court Christian right

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), two vice presidential favorites, took very different tacks during their speeches at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's lunch on Thursday.

Portman focused on intensely personal anecdotes that underlined his faith, including how he quit a job in the first Bush White House to be with his mother after she was diagnosed with cancer, while Rubio delivered a sweeping speech about faith and American exceptionalism that had the religious, conservative audience on its feet on a half-dozen occasions.

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"If we turn to our creator for comfort and for guidance, what do we find? We find that our faith is deepened," Portman told the audience before telling a story of deciding to quit to return to Ohio for his mother, calling it "the best decision I ever made."

Rubio, on the other hand, went big, giving a speech that ranged from the early Christians' torture at the hands of the Romans, touched on the Founding Fathers and wove together his view of American exceptionalism with his faith.

"Americans' freedoms are deeply ingrained in our faith," Rubio said at one point. "America's not just a great nation. At its core, it's a blessed one.

"Because our rights find its source in your creator and your God … the only power that government should have is the power you agree to give it," Rubio continued. "You cannot have your freedom without your faith, because the source of your freedom is your faith."

The coalition of conservative Christian groups is chaired by former Christian Coalition figurehead Ralph Reed and works to mobilize voters on faith-related issues.

While the tone of their speeches were strikingly different, they both took time to slam Democrats. Portman said President Obama's fight with Catholic leaders over a birth control mandate in healthcare shows "this administration has often treated it [faith] as a second-class right," while Rubio said that Democrats believed "the source of our freedom are enlightened leaders who went to Harvard, Yale or really good schools ... who know what's best for the rest of us."