WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Sen. Marco Rubio hammered President Barack Obama on the economy, emphasizing that he wants to protect his neighbors, not the millionaires, from the president’s vision of a strong middle-class economy.

Minutes after President Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term as president, Rubio focused on the Obama Administration’s inability to stabilize a middle-class economy and create jobs during the Republican response to the president’s speech.

“I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich,” Rubio said. “I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

Rubio, the junior senator from Florida who is seen as an early favorite for the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidential election, stayed on President Obama’s handling of the economy, accusing the president of rampant deficit spending and blocking out opposing views.

“Presidents in both parties from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan have known that the free enterprise economy is the source of middle-class prosperity,” Rubio said. “But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problem.” He added: “As you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”

Later, Rubio took what’s been described as an awkward pause in the Republican response to take a swig of water. The moment left some commentators wondering if that’s what viewers will remember of Rubio’s speech.

“I thought a light was about to fall on him or something,” CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer said on CBS News following the response.


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