While Republican presidential candidates were bruising each other on the campaign trail, rising GOP star Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida took aim at the current occupant of the White House to help kick off the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in the nation’s capital.

“Obama might be a great father, but he is a terrible president,” Rubio declared to an appreciative CPAC audience.

He didn’t limit his criticism of Democratic politicians to Obama.

“Why is it all Republican presidential candidates want to be Ronald Reagan, but no Democrats want to be Jimmy Carter?” he asked.

Rubio criticized the Obama administration for having no energy policy.

“We are an energy-rich country, and we need to use the energy God has blessed the nation with,” he asserted.

He also attacked the Obama administration for increasing government regulations and decreasing jobs.

Holding up a blank page of yellow pad paper, the Florida senator declared, “This is Obama’s Medicare plan.”

“Medicare is bankrupt,” he said. “Anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare where it is today is in favor of bankrupting Medicare.”

Rubio said that when he first got to the Senate he was star struck, seeing celebrities he was used to watching being interviewed on television.

Then, he realized, the obligation to communicate with the people rested on him.

He encouraged the CPAC crowd to believe in themselves and in the free enterprise system established over generations by America’s forefathers.

He defended the Catholic Church in the current debate over the Obama administration’s insistence that church-operated medical services provide for contraceptives and abortion.

“The federal government does not have the right to force religious organizations to pay for things that the religious organization thinks is wrong,” Rubio insisted.

“If you study history, the rule is that repressive governments tell people how they can live, who they can marry, what they can do in live,” he said, railing against the Obama administration’s rapid expansion of the federal government.

Expressing his appreciation for his Cuban parents coming to the United States, Rubio lauded America as a land of freedom and opportunity.

“It’s not our military, or even the free enterprise that makes America great,” he said. “It’s wherever you go in the world, people sacrifice their lives to get to America because they see in the America what it means … to realize your dreams.”

He contrasted the United States to totalitarian nations like China and Russia.

“Do you want to know why China and Russia cast their vetoes in the Security Council trying to intervene on behalf of the Syrian people?” he asked. “It’s because China and Russia want to reserve for themselves the right to do to their own citizens what the Syrian government is doing to the Syrian people.”

He praised America’s military.

“We don’t want Iraq or Afghanistan the 51st state,” he noted. “What nation in the world has ever sent its sons and increasingly its daughters to fight overseas not for conquest, but for freedom?

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