Rubio Hits the Mainstream With CPAC Opener

Perhaps it was the early-slated speech, the first campaign-style political speech of the conference, but Rubio's half-hour talk produced at least five standing ovations. Some ovation-worthy comments, according to the ballroom crowd? Lowering taxes got a good one. Even better? Putting terrorists on trial in a military tribunal in Guantánamo, "not in a civilian courtroom in Manhattan." Rubio said the recent snowstorm also was a boost to American society, slowing down government intervention in all manners of state and throwing up an obstacle to Obama in that the snow meant "the president couldn't find a teleprompter to announce any new taxes." (So far there have been at least four teleprompter jokes from various speakers, and this reporter is betting we will reach 15 by the end of the day).

Rubio talked to the crowd about his mother and father—a Wal-Mart clerk and a bartender, respectively—and how he could hear his 70-year-old grandfather's keys in the door each night he came from his 16-hour shifts. He made what is perhaps the important nod of the event here, one to the Tea Partiers, saying that they and other Americans who are joining forces to fight the current administration are part of "the single greatest pushback in American history," prompting yet another round of applause.

Earlier this morning, just before his speech, the Rubio summer internship sign-up sheet had three names. Ten minutes after the speech and with the crowd still in the ballroom, it had had six. Downstairs the Rubio table had three sheets filled up with names and contacts. "I'm not from Florida, but that guy should run for president," one listener, Dennis Moore from Kansas, told the woman running the Rubio table. "I thought I was listening to Ronald Reagan."