Senator Marco Rubio took the stage at CPAC and wowed the packed room with a barnburner of a speech.
"Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot," he said, his words drowned out by cheers from the crowd as he talked about his belief in the protection of human life "at every stage of its development."
"The people who are actually closed-minded in American politics are the people who love to preach about the certainty of science with regards to our climate but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception," he continued.
Rubio does not often speak so forcefully on social issues, but if there's any venue to do it, it's CPAC. His speech was wildly popular: he entered the stage to the first standing ovation of the day, and drew applause every time he took a sip of water. (He also made plenty of jokes about water, a nod to his awkward sip during a post-State of the Union speech.)
His CPAC remarks focused largely on economic issues, from lowering taxes to defunding Obamacare. He railed against China and other countries that criticize the United States. He noticeably did not mention immigration reform, an effort he is leading to chagrin from some conservatives.
Rubio concluded with a crowd-pleasing message praising the United States.
"As soon as I'm done speaking, I'll tell you what the criticism on the left is going to be," Rubio said. "Number one, he drank too much water. Number two: that he didn't offer any new ideas.
"And there's the fallacy of it. We don't need a new idea. There is an idea: the idea is called America, and it still works."