(CNN) – In a speech blasting partisanship on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida warned the current political climate was impeding public discourse and squashing the idea of American exceptionalism.
Though he didn't mention President Barack Obama by name, the junior senator made a veiled swipe at Obama's 2008 campaign theme of "hope" and "change," saying the last few years have seen anything but such visions.
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"Any hope of that is now gone," Rubio said. "What you have today is nothing less than a wholesale effort to pit one group of Americans against each other on issue after issue."
He made his comments to members of the Latino Coalition gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where Mitt Romney also delivered a speech earlier in the day.
Rubio, widely thought to be a possible running mate for Romney, placed blame on those who advocate for policies generally pushed by the left, namely those that promote higher taxes for the wealthy and more government spending.
He faulted those policies for distorting the so-called American dream and insisted the line of thinking causes divisiveness and class warfare.
"Americans have never believed that the way you climb the economic ladder is to pull other people down from it," Rubio said.
While he touched on other factors that he said are steering the country in the wrong direction - debt, energy and immigration policies - Rubio most heavily hammered home the idea that political brinkmanship was society's largest threat.
Rubio argued the nature of political campaigns has degraded to a point that prevents productive thought or discourse.
"It is impossible for this Republic to function if people refuse to debate ideas and instead skip straight to the direct defamation of their political opponents," the senator said.
He continued: "That's now being celebrated. That's now being encouraged. It's now a mark of how good you are in politics if you're willing to do that."
His comments come in an election year already marred by intense fighting between Obama and Romney, the likely GOP presidential nominee.
On Saturday, however, Rubio made more direct attacks in a South Carolina speech, calling Obama the most "divisive figure" in American history.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio is a popular figure in the Latino community and speculated to be a potential boost for Romney's campaign, as the candidate lags far behind Obama in support among Latino voters.
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll, 61% of registered Latino voters said they back Obama for re-election, with 27% supporting Romney.
Rubio targeted portions of his Wednesday speech to immigrant workers, making references to those who served the crowd their meal at the event and made their beds in their hotel rooms.
"They are proud to work with their hands, they are proud to serve you your lunch and your dinner because they know that their sacrifice is paving the way for someone that they love," he said, referring to the hope that their children might have better lives.
He later added: "Our goal is to ensure all those things are possible."
– CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby contributed to this report.