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Jabbing Rivals, Marco Rubio Tries To Break Through On Foreign Policy Record

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio during a campaign stop Sunday in Atkinson, N.H. Mary Schwalm/AP hide caption

toggle caption Mary Schwalm/AP

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio during a campaign stop Sunday in Atkinson, N.H.

Mary Schwalm/AP

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is trying to play up his foreign policy credentials by ripping into some of his Republican rivals. He did not blast any of his opponents directly by name, but in a speech in Hooksett, N.H., Monday morning, Rubio took some veiled shots at Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Rubio questioned their national security qualifications, and he specifically took aim at Cruz for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"We do have some Republican candidates who propose that rulers like Assad and [Vladimir] Putin should be partners of the United States and who have voted with Barack Obama and Harry Reid, rather than our men and women in uniform," he said.

Rubio's remarks came during his first major foreign policy speech since the Paris attacks and just weeks before early-primary states start voting. Rubio has struggled to gain traction in a crowded GOP field, and during a two-day campaign swing through the Granite State, he tried to portray himself as the best candidate to tackle ISIS. He criticized some Republicans for talking "tough" but not actually implementing tough laws.

On the campaign trail, Cruz has mentioned the idea of "carpet bombing" the Islamic State to see whether "sand can glow in the dark."

On Monday, Rubio decried that idea.

"While some claim that they would destroy ISIS, that they would make the sands of the Middle East glow in the dark, my question is — with what?" Rubio asked.

Rubio has criticized Cruz in the past for supporting cuts to the military, and he repeated that claim Monday.

As Cruz has gained popularity in recent polling, Rubio has repeatedly accused the Texas senator of trying to weaken the United States' ability to fight global terrorism by shrinking not only military efforts but also domestic surveillance programs.

"We have isolationist candidates who are apparently more passionate about weakening our military and intelligence capabilities than they are about destroying our enemies," said Rubio. "Words and political stunts cannot ensure our security. ISIS cannot be filibustered."

The "filibuster" comment seemed like a disguised critique of Sen. Rand Paul, who in 2014 famously filibustered President Obama's nomination of a judge who had written a memo authorizing the use of drones to execute terrorists overseas, including an American citizen.

Rubio leveled another shot at Paul and his more libertarian foreign policy.

"If you're an American who has committed the ultimate act of betrayal against our country, I will have no qualms about treating you like the enemy combatant you are," he said.

While Rubio was restrained in attacking his GOP rivals by name, he openly lashed out against the Obama administration for "weakening" the United States. He listed a litany of global threats — China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and ISIS — and insisted the United States is facing far more complex and numerous dangers today because of President Obama.

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