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Rubio's speech on foreign policy stakes out middle ground in GOP

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took another step onto the national stage Wednesday with a foreign policy speech that positioned him squarely in the middle between a dying breed of GOP moderates and his partisan brethren who have condemned President Obama as an international weakling.

"The easiest thing for me to do here today is to give a speech on my disagreement with this administration on foreign policy," Rubio told a packed auditorium at the Brookings Institution. "I have many."

But he offered little direct criticism, issuing a call for bipartisanship and more American "leadership" in the world, even as he chastised "voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all."

The speech came two days after Rubio made his first appearance on the campaign trail with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and a week after he proposed a compromise version of the controversial DREAM Act for illegal immigrants.

As if to emphasize Rubio's rising profile and speculation about his position on Romney's vice presidential short list, the U.S. Capitol Police confirmed Wednesday that they are working with law enforcement agencies in Miami to investigate a threat against Rubio.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman, said the investigation is "active" but declined to specify the nature of the threat, first reported by the Miami Herald.

Rubio's speech included some conservative red meat. Russia's prime minister and president-elect, Vladmir V. Putin, "might talk tough," he said, "but he knows he is weak."

He also lambasted Russian and Chinese obstructionism in the U.N. Security Council and criticized the administration as too compliant with the will of such international institutions.

Rather than solidifying his potential as a vice presidential attack dog, Rubio's measured address may position him for a role that some admirers believe is more likely -- as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Rubio's efforts to find compromise on immigration legislation may bolster his -- if not the party's -- image with Hispanic voters. His bill would allow young illegal immigrants to remain in America but stops short of citizenship, carving out a middle ground between the Obama-supported DREAM Act and GOP lawmakers who back increased deportation.

Meanwhile, Rubio's immigrant family story has received scrutiny with his claim that his parents, like hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans in Florida, left the island after Castro's 1959 revolution. But unlike many exiles, Rubio's parents had returned to Cuba briefly in the early 1960s only to come back to the U.S. to stay.