Story highlights

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio accused Democrats of engaging in a 'liberal versus liberal' debate Tuesday night

Rubio said it reminded him of big liberal promises made in the mid-'80s

Washington CNN  — 

Liberals quickly slammed Marco Rubio after the Florida senator suggested Wednesday that $10 an hour wasn’t enough to live on – despite his opposition to raising the minimum wage.

The criticism came hours after Rubio called Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate a contest over “who was going to give away the most free stuff.”

“Even the jobs that are being created now aren’t paying enough. You can’t live on $10 an hour, you can’t live on $11 an hour. We need jobs that pay much more than that,” Rubio said during a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

He went on, however, to explain that was why workers need to be retrained in skills needed for better-paying jobs. But liberals said Rubio had effectively laid out anargument for increasing the minimum wage.

“Marco Rubio admits working families aren’t paid nearly enough but he has repeatedly stood in the way of giving families a raise. Whether it’s opposing a raise in the minimum wage or giving tax breaks to millionaires, Marco Rubio continues to prove he’s against working families,” Jessica Mackler, the president of the progressive American Bridge group, said in a statement.

A Rubio spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Appearing on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” earlier Wednesday, Rubio said Democrats at the debate were vying to see who could give away the “most free stuff.”

“If you watched that debate last night, it looked like something from the early ’80s. It was basically a liberal versus liberal debate about who was going to give away the most free stuff: Free college education. Free college education for people illegally in this country. Free health care. Free everything,” Rubio said.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton’s big night on the debate stage

“Their answer to every problem in America is a government program and a tax increase. That’s all they prescribe time and time again. And this is stuff from the ’80s, the mid-‘80s,” Rubio added.

Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said Rubio’s comments about “free stuff” were akin to the damning remark 2012 nominee Mitt Romney said after his failed bid, alleging that President Barack Obama and Democrats won elections with the promise of “gifts” for minorities. Jeb Bush also took heat last month after he said Democrats lure black voters with the promise of “free stuff.”

“Like his good friend Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio channeled his inner Mitt Romney and simply sees the path to a stronger middle class and better education as more ‘free stuff,’” Freundlich said.

The first Democratic debate, which was hosted by CNN and Facebook in Las Vegas, offered Republicans a chance to take shots at Democrats.

Bush, also appearing on “Fox and Friends,” argued that Clinton’s opponents didn’t criticize her hard enough over her use of a personal email server while leading the State Department. He said he would have “taken her to task.”

“She was secretary of state. This … information crossing her server was of national security interest, for sure. I would have taken her to task for that. If she wins the nomination and I win the nomination, trust me, this is not going to end,” Bush said.

CNN’s Cassie Spodak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.