(CNN) – Sen. Marco Rubio offered a loud endorsement of some of the most contentious social positions of the Republican Party Thursday during his speech to conservative activists outside Washington.
Saying respect was required to work with members of opposing viewpoints, Rubio came down hard on liberals he characterized as closed minded.
"I respect people who disagree with me on certain things, but they have to respect me too," Rubio said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Just because I believe states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot. Just because we believe life – all life – is worthy of protection at every stage of its development does not make you a chauvinist."
"The people who are actually closed minded in American politics are the people who love to preach about the certainty of science in regards to our climate but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception," Rubio continued.
As Republicans continue to search for ways to attract new voters after last year's election, which saw GOP nominee Mitt Romney lose among all groups except white men, many are looking to Rubio as a rising star within the party. He delivered the Republican response to last month's State of the Union address, and has been a leading voice on comprehensive immigration reform.
Appealing to younger voters, Rubio made an impassioned call for reforming student debt in the country, saying the massive amounts that some college grads owe hurt America's future and middle class.
And rebuffing the Republican notion raised during last year's campaign that a large chunk of Americans are dependent on government, Rubio stressed the "vast majority of the American people are hard-working taxpayers who take responsibility for their families, go to work every day, they pay their mortgage on time, they volunteer in their community."
But if some in the party were looking for Rubio to adopt a moderate tone on social issues, or to offer a bold new path for the Republican Party, they likely came away disappointed from his CPAC speech Thursday.
"We don't need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America, and it still works," Rubio said to a loud round of applause.