Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio barnstormed across Virginia Sunday, attacking front-runner Donald Trump as a "con man" and telling voters the election is a "referendum" on the future of the nation, the Republican Party, and the conservative movement.
Speaking before a large crowd at James River High School in Midlothian, Virginia, Rubio said voters were "in a fight for the heart and soul of the conservative movement."
"In the past," Rubio said, "we've been told to water down our principles" and that "we need someone who is more like the Democrat to win." He said that advice is mistaken.
The new threat comes not from the establishment trying to blunt conservatism, Rubio said, but from a GOP front-runner who threatens to dismantle conservatism entirely.
Saying the party faces a threat from "someone who believes that we should have no principles upon which to build our movement," Rubio said he "would not allow the conservative movement to be taken over by a con artist by the name of Donald Trump."
Rubio chided Trump for his lack of policy proposals, particularly on health care, as well as his failed Trump University effort, which is currently in litigation.
"This is a con job of the highest order," Rubio said. "The consequences will be the very identity of the United States of America."
Rubio told the appreciative crowd that he can unite the Republican Party and the conservative movement and that, if he wins the general election, "for the first time in eight years, we will have a president who follows the constitution."
His visit to Virginia comes against the backdrop of a CBS News/YouGov tracking poll showing Trump leading among likely Virginia primary voters with 40 percent of the vote. Rubio is in second place with 27 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who focused his weekend campaigning in Texas and Oklahoma, has 22 percent.
Trump spent Sunday campaigning in Alabama, where he was endorsed by Sen. Jeff Sessions. In a press release from the Trump campaign, Sessions said he was "thrilled" to endorse Trump and that this election represents what he called "our last chance to save U.S. sovereignty and to end the domination of the political establishment over the interests of working Americans."
For his part, Rubio was happy to accept the support of established political figures who, at one time, were seen as radicals of movement conservatism.
Chief among those is the former Virginia Governor, U.S. Sen. George Allen, who introduced Rubio at the Midlothian event.
Allen harkened back to Ronald Reagan in his remarks, calling this election "our time for choosing ... a positive, constructive agenda."
It's a theme Rubio echoed in his closing remarks: "What makes us special is the millions and millions of people that never become famous, and that never become rich, but they achieve happiness." This, Rubio said, "is called the American dream. And we are called to save it."