Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., on Thursday, March 6, 2014. CPAC, a project of the American Conservative Union (ACU), runs until Saturday, March 8. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., Thursday. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is offering a message of fear — the government is spying on you, the drones are going to drop on you, etc. For him, it is midnight in America. In contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as was evident in his Monday speech at Google’s Washington, D.C., office, is offering a sunnier vision, or at least the hope for morning in America.

He told the audience: “This new economy comes with both exciting opportunities and vexing challenges. A global middle class has emerged that is eager and willing to buy the services we provide, the products we build and the food we grow – but it is also eager and willing to compete with us for jobs and business. Advances in technology have made communication, learning and work faster and more productive – but it has also allowed machines to replace many of the jobs people once relied upon to improve their lives. . . . The good news is that no nation on earth is better prepared to do this than ours. Another American century is within our reach. But achieving this will require us to replace the antiquated policies and institutions of the last century with ones built for this new era.” The answer is not some return to pre-progressive era government.

In Rubio’s formulation, “there is no better economic model for equality of opportunity than the American free enterprise system” but we must also understand that “we cannot rebuild the American Dream when 43 percent of new jobs pay less than $16 an hour and our economy is growing at only two or three percent a year.” Interestingly he takes the Democrats’ obsession with minimum wage and makes them look stingy: “Look at the fervor surrounding the minimum-wage debate. A $10.10 minimum wage is not the American Dream. We need jobs that pay $30, $40, $50 an hour, and we need to equip more of our people to fill them.”

His solution is promoting innovation (ensuring the Internet remains free and open, expanding the spectrum to accommodate digital transmission, support for basic research), expanding markets, opening up energy production and improving the investment climate in America. As to the latter, he and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will be rolling out a tax reform plan of their own (“one that is broad and fundamentally pro-growth. Our proposal will encompass both the individual and business sides of the tax code and will prioritize replacing our current business tax system with a new globally competitive model”). He adds, “Confronting the threat of ObamaCare, our federal debt and our burdensome regulatory system would go a long way toward restoring the certainty that leads to private sector investment.”

It is a shame he did not include immigration reform in his pro-growth policy. (Reportedly in the Q and A he certainly did not make an impassioned plea for it.) He should shed his fear of the far right and unabashedly make that part of what is otherwise a solid, pro-growth agenda. It’s good policy and necessary to show his own perseverance and political courage. By leaving it out, he suggests his core beliefs can give way to political expediency.

Rubio has a solid message and the ability to connect it to the lives of average Americans. He has a realistic and Reaganesque foreign policy vision. Now he needs the strength of character to complete the message with his own immigration policy and the gravitas to sell it to his party and the country.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.