Early on the Stump: Rubio, Cruz Slam Runaway Spending, 'Ideas of the Old World'

It was the Democrat speaking between Cruz and Rubio who offered more specifics for what he believes will fuel that growth.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is a co-chairman of the Fix the Debt campaign founded by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of President Obama's deficit reduction commission who started their own campaign after Obama brushed aside their plan that called for spending cuts, tax hikes and entitlement reform.

"By 2040, if we do nothing, our debt will be 200 percent of our GDP -- the time to fix it is now," Rendell told the breakfast crowd.

In 10 years, he added, three-quarters of the federal budget "will be consumed by mandatory spending, mostly entitlements" with only 25 percent for all domestic discretionary spending and defense.

"We need to do something big; we can't nibble at the edges," Rendell said.

He advocated repealing sequestration, giving Congress a "menu" of reform options and implementing the Buffett Rule to put a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on individuals making more than $1 million per year. "Will the Buffett Rule affect anyone who works in this restaurant?" he asked.

While advocating the tax hikes Obama championed in 2011, Rendell veered the other way when he stressed "entitlement programs have to change...we Dems have to face up to it." He singled out Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as someone who is stubbornly refusing to budge on entitlements to the detriment of the country's economic future.

"Republicans have to get out of this idea that it's evil to raise revenue," the former governor continued. "It isn't evil -- Reagan did it 11 times."

"If you harden those positions we won't fix the debt… we will become another Greece," he said of current stances of Dems and the GOP.

Rendell proposed piping a song into Congress on a loop track like "It's a Small World" at Disneyland: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones.

"But if you try, you might get what you need," he added.

Rubio challenged Rendell's assertion that the cooperation between Dems and the White House found in the Reagan era was possible today.

"There's a difference between then and now," Rubio said, adding the two political parties back then shared "some commonality of philosophical vision" that could aid in reaching consensus on a policy disagreement.

Concerned Veterans for America CEO Pete Hegseth stressed that consensus can be reached by what can seem like different philosophies on defense spending.

"Being a deficit hawk and a defense hawk aren't mutually exclusive," Hegseth said.

"If there's anywhere our Constitution tells us we should be spending money it's to provide for the common defense," he added.