In tech push, Marco Rubio's age cuts both ways

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN)While campaigning in New Hampshire last week, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said "outdated" politicians must be left behind, a subtle dig at how his opponents can seem out of touch but also a reminder of how the Florida senator is one of the youngest candidates running for president.

When a voter asked him why it is important to have "a leader from a younger generation, a new fresh face," Rubio, who is 44 and serving his first term as a U.S. senator, was careful in answering.
"It's not about biological age per say. I think it has more to do with whether or not you're in touch with the world as it is today because it's just a dramatically different place," Rubio said.
Of the declared presidential candidates, only Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is younger -- and even then only by a couple of weeks. As the campaigning heats up, Granite State operatives say he will have to visit more often; he is scheduled to be back in the state Wednesday.
    As part of Rubio's strategy here in New Hampshire -- and reflective of his national plans as well -- the Florida senator is pitching himself as a tech-savvy candidate who's not too inexperienced to understand what could become the "New American Century," a phrase he often uses on the stump.
    Eloise Adams of Wolfeboro, where Rubio held a town hall meeting last week, told CNN she finds him appealing because he is eloquent.
    "To me out of all the people he's just a little bit different. I think he brings a fresh aspect to the campaign," Adams told CNN. "I just think he knows so much -- at least that's how he comes across to me."
    Of course, being the young candidate can scare some voters, many of whom see President Barack Obama, who was 47 when elected, as an example what happens when someone with less than a full Senate term of experience becomes president.
    Rubio has a response ready to go.
    "Barack Obama hasn't failed because he was only in the Senate for two years. He's failed because his ideas don't work," Rubio told Boston TV station WHDH when asked what makes him different from the President. "He has seven years of experience now and he's still making bad decisions."
    Rubio has also brushed off attacks from Republican contender Donald Trump, who called Rubio "too young" and a "kid," saying Trump is just trying to get attention and is sensitive to criticism.
    Rubio's last trip to New Hampshire started just hours after a meeting in New York City with several Internet start-up companies. It was something he brought up often on the trail in New Hampshire -- explaining how they are an example of the "new economy" -- one where companies like Uber and Amazon are disrupting the normal flow of business.
    "The world is changing, and it's changing faster than ever. Innovation in and of itself is a key part of our economy," Rubio said at the Wolfeboro town hall. "It took the telephone 75 years to reach 100 million users. It took Candy Crush one year to reach 100 million users."
    He described regulations and policies that he says have hindered the American economy from modernizing and said the country needs a leader who understands how things have changed.
    As many voters see outsider status as a plus this election, Rubio's lack of experience at the federal or executive level does not necessarily hurt him.
    Ken Bolduc, a Republican retiree from Somersworth, said Rubio stuck out to him from the crowded field of Republican candidates.
    "I think we're kind of stalled right now. This gridlock that they talk about, just because there are so many older people like me, we have our ideas, we're set, and we just can't close the gap. Maybe he can close the gap," Bolduc told CNN.
    Voters like Bolduc told CNN they were impressed with Rubio's debate performance but needed to learn more about him.
    Rubio has recently risen in the polls in New Hampshire -- 7 percentage points in the last month according to an NBC/WSJ poll -- although he has visited the state much less than other candidates. And he's experienced a national poll bump after a positively reviewed debate performance last month.
    By talking about the lack of urgency in politics, Rubio tried to defend himself against recent criticism for missing votes in Congress but also staked a claim as an agent for change who understands a "broken" system.
    "In my four-and-a-half years there, I've been deeply frustrated on (the) lack of progress on major issues, and we're not going to make progress unless we have the right person in the White House," Rubio told reporters.
    "We have to act now," Rubio said this week at a house party in Bedford. "If we just keep electing the same people with the same ideas, nothing is going to change. We must now turn the page as a party and as a country."