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ST. PETERSBURG - In his first Tampa Bay area appearance as a senator, Marco Rubio told a Republican crowd tonight that many Washington political leaders don't understand the seriousness of the nation's debt problems, which he said could lead to a crisis in "a couple of years."

"The fundamental debate we are having in Washington today," he said, is between "people who believe that government is the way you grow your economy and people who understand that the job of government is to make it easier for individuals to do that themselves."

Rubio made his comments before a sellout crowd of about 550 local Republicans who paid $125 to $500 each to attend the Pinellas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner and a VIP reception, the party's premier annual fundraising event.

He said government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, which can't continue. The danger, Rubio said, is that lenders will begin insisting on higher interest or will stop buying U.S. debt.


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