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  1. Florida Politics

Rubio's new mantra: Upward mobility

Sen. Marco Rubio has cast himself as a champion of small business and children of illegal immigrants, and now he's trying to broaden his appeal again. He is working on what his office calls "upward mobility" policy aimed at lower-income people.

His ideas include education reforms, "pro-growth policies" and worker training, a spokesman said. Coming against the GOP's dismal performance among lower and middle class people, including minority groups, there seems an obvious political angle as Rubio tries to further establish himself as a leading voice in a party facing a demographic crossroads.

Spokesman Alex Conant said it's merely an extension of Rubio's focus on the American Dream, which he experienced through his immigrant parents. "Now that the election is over and we have a new congress, this is the time to look forward," Conant said. "He thinks there is a real opportunity here on these issues."

Rubio could touch on the issue during the Washington Ideas Forum this morning. No doubt immigration will come up.

Many Republicans want Rubio to take a lead role in shaping immigration policy but Rubio doesn't seem as willing to embrace pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented residents, lest he cross his own stated opposition to "amnesty."

Conant said Rubio wants to push his still-unreleased alternative Dream Act, which would grant legal status, but not a pathway, to some children of illegal immigrants. That's not the broad solution Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans want. So Rubio could next year face a tough choice of sticking with the more cautious approach, which has already drawn cries of amnesty, or joining a larger deal.

Rubio prefers a "sequential" approach, Conant said, but he added, "He's not going to prejudge those (broader) efforts."

A year ago, Rubio seemed to be going in a different direction. During the 2011 Ideas Forum, he distanced himself from previous support for in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. Mitt Romney was attacking Rick Perry for being soft on immigration at the time and it seemed Rubio was making a political play, though he denied any calculations.

Rommey's hard line, of course, killed him in the general election.