Rubio: American exceptionalism imperiled under Obama

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finally got his moment in the spotlight Thursday when he formally introduced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, attacking President Obama’s record while weaving in his own personal history as a call to arms that anyone, from any background, can make it in America.

The freshman lawmaker started by recalling the first Republican convention he watched with his Cuban grandfather, who was permanently disabled from childhood polio, and the time he spent listening to him talk about history, politics and baseball.

“I don’t remember all the things he talked to me about,” Mr. Rubio said. “But the one thing I remember, is the one thing he wanted me never to forget: that the dreams he had when he was young, became impossible to achieve. But there was no limit to how far I could go, because I was an American.”

But at the same time, unlike previous convention speakers, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a one-time presidential candidate himself, Mr. Rubio almost immediately went on to lavish praise on Mr. Romney rather than wax extensively on his own experiences.

“Now tonight, we’ve heard for a long time now about Mitt Romney’s success in business. It’s well known,” Mr. Rubio said. “But we’ve also learned that he’s so much more than that. Mitt Romney’s a devoted husband, a father, a grandfather. A generous member of his community and church. A role model for younger Americans like myself. Everywhere he’s been, he’s volunteered his time and talent to make things better for those around him. And we are blessed that a man like this will soon be the president of these United States.”

“The telegenic Cuban-American, 41, also hammered home oft-cited indictments of Mr. Obama, criticizing him for the $831 billion economic-stimulus package and his health care overhaul while accusing him of dividing Americans — rich and poor, for example — against one another.

“Hope and change has become divide and conquer,” Mr. Rubio said.

Touching on his own background — his father a bartender, his mother a cashier, a maid, and a Kmart stock clerk — Mr. Rubio also painted a sweeping, optimistic view of American exceptionalism and potential for the future — if Mr. Romney is elected.

“The story of our time will be written by Americans who haven’t yet even been born,” he said. “Let us make sure they write that we did our part. That in the early years of this new century, we lived in an uncertain time. But we did not allow fear to cause us to abandon what made us special.”

He added, “We chose a special man to lead us in a special time. We chose Mitt Romney to lead our nation. And because we did, the American Miracle lived on for another generation to inherit.”

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