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Rubio stresses beliefs more than policies at conservative event

“And that’s the growing sense by so many people across this country ... that we are losing control of our nation and more importantly that we are losing control of what we’ve come to know as the American dream.” 

Rubio focused on religious and family values, the plight of the middle, class and the threat of big government in an address that seemed designed to shore up support among the GOP’s right flank. 

Rubio was one of several potential contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 to speak at the conference. His ardent support from the party base has cooled some lately, largely because of his involvement in the push for immigration reform push earlier this year, an effort that was deeply unpopular with many conservatives.

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Notably, Rubio made no mention of immigration reform, President Obama’s controversial healthcare law, the current government shutdown or the looming debt-ceiling crisis. Instead, the Florida senator emphasized the link between a strong economy and strong values, which he said must be reinforced by society rather than the government. 

“We have countless children in this country that are not being taught these values because our society is breaking down and our families are falling apart and as a result our country is paying a terrible, terrible price,” Rubio said. 

“There is a role for government, but no matter how much money the government spends it will never be able to take the place of parents and strong families.” 

Rubio got a standing ovation from the audience for an impassioned defense of his religious beliefs. 

He declared that “I believe Jesus Christ is God” and slammed what he called a “rising tide of intolerance in America” toward those who cherish “traditional values.” 

“I respect the rights of those who do not share my beliefs, but to teach my faith to my children and to share it with anyone who will listen, that is my right too,” Rubio said to an enthusiastic crowd. 

Rubio appeared comfortable on the stage, cracking jokes and taking an exaggerated sip of water in reference to a much-discussed moment of thirst during his response to Obama’s State of the Union speech earlier this year. 

“I hope all the protestors that came to scream at us left with Ted Cruz,” Rubio quipped at the start of his speech just minutes after a group of pro-immigration reform protestors heckled the Republican Texas senator.