Former Florida State House Speaker Rubio shot from national oblivion to stardom in 2010 as the underdog winner of the Senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), in a closely- watched race against Gov. Charlie Crist. And Rubio’s star continues to rise in the Republican party as many consider him as one of the favorites to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 general election.
“The case for Rubio is simple and close to conclusive. He’s Hispanic, giving the GOP an opportunity to reestablish some sort of foothold in that electorally critical community. He’s from Florida, a major swing state. He’s a tea party favorite thanks to destruction of moderate Governor Charlie Crist in a Senate primary in 2010. And, he’s young; at 42 years old, Rubio is 23 years Romney’s junior.”
After purposely staying out of the limelight during the first months of the 112th Congress, Rubio again became the center of attention at the end of March 2011 when he vocalized strong opinions about both the United States' domestic and foreign agenda.
On March 28, 2011, Rubio wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, railing against the notion of raising the U.S. debt limit. That same day, Rubio sent a letter to Senate Democratic and Republican leaders imploring them to pass a use of force resolution against Libya, with the stated goal of removing dictator Moammar Gaddafi.
"Marco's original plan was to take some time and get a good feel for the Senate," said Heath Thompson, an adviser to the Florida senator. "The sheer magnitude of these issues, and Marco's passion for what to do about them, has changed everything."
Stepping into the heated political arena, Rubio, who had previously refused all national media requests, immediately made headlines. Questions have already begun about whether the GOP star will be the 2012 vice-presidential nominee.
"I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee," Rubio told Fox News' Sean Hannity. "It's important that I have that attitude too because otherwise I won't be able to do this job well."
Despite Rubio's denial, the media continues to speculate that he may yet be a top pick for the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.
In His Own Words
"Americans want leaders who will come to Washington, D.C., and stand up to the big government agenda, not be co-opted by it."
Rubio was born in Miami to parents who fled Cuba after Communist leader Fidel Castro's takeover.
Rubio described his upbringing, partly in Miami and partly in Las Vegas, as "working class." His father worked a bartender for most of Rubio's childhood, and his mother was a hotel housekeeper and later a Kmart stock clerk.
After graduating from a Miami high school in 1989, Rubio went to Tarkio College in Missouri on a football scholarship. He stayed a year before transferring to Sante Fe Community College and ended up earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Florida in 1993.
Rubio went on to law school at the University of Miami, earning his J.D. with honors in 1996.
Florida House of Representatives
On January 25, 2000, the 28-year-old Rubio was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Over the next eight years, he worked his way up the state house's Republican leadership, serving as majority whip, majority leader and finally speaker of the house.
Florida Senate Run
In May 2009, Rubio announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), and hired top Republican staff. Rubio was entering a ring already occupied by some Republican heavy-hitters, including Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R).
But the summer of 2009 brought about a surge of antipathy toward President Obama's health care reform plans, embodied in the grassroots Tea Party movement. At first a fringe conservative movement, the Tea Parties gained numbers and momentum among conservatives wary of a government takeover of health care.
The young Rubio caught the wave of the populist fervor, using it's small-government message to shoot ahed in the polls. Though he never welcomed the title, Rubio was soon dubbed the "Tea Party candidate," and became a major threat to the more "traditional" Republican Crist.
Rubio's debuted into the world of mainstream conservatism with a rousing speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee's (CPAC) annual meeting in February 2010.
Bringing the crowd to its feet, Rubio "delivered fiery assault on President Obama's economic policies and his administration's handling of national security," The Washington Post reported.
Rubio's background is intertwined with the issue of immigration. His parents fled Cuba after Fidel Castro assumed power, and in February 2011, Rubio remarked that he was "raised by exiles, by people who know what it's like to lose their country."
Rubio raised some Republican eyebrows in April 2010 when he criticized Arizona's immigration law, which would have allowed local law-enforcement officials to question the immigration status of just about anyone. This put him at odds with some in the traditional conservative establishment.
In his statement regarding the law, Rubio said, "It could unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens."
Despite this disagreement, Rubio says he is within the conservative mainstream on immigration reform. He has made clear that border security is a priority to him, calling it not just an immigration issue but also one of public safety.
Raising four children and living in a socio-economically diverse area, Rubio says he understands the importance of education. And he has made it one of his priorities to reform the system.
Rubio supports school vouchers. To fund them, Rubio proposes a universal education tax deduction and a federal corporate income tax credit.
"Ideally, a dollar-for-dollar deduction or credit would be available to all taxpayers for educational expenses, including qualified tuition and related expenses incurred by students attending primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions, and certain expenses related to home schooling and tutoring," Rubio said.
During his tenure in the Florida House, Rubio promoted development of the public-school system through improvements to the curricula. Additionally, he sought to target socio-economic factors affecting academic underperformance, diversify school choice through school vouchers and increase accountability.
Further, Rubio wants to make federal block grants to states conditional on performance and accountability measures, create students with disabilities scholarships and reinstate the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Along with his stance on health care, Rubio's view on spending makes him a favorite of conservatives, especially the tea party, although he has notably not joined the Senate Tea Party caucus in the 112th Congress.
In his 2010 campaign platform, Rubio promised Floridians to tackle the national debt by cutting spending and reducing deficits. In an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation," Rubio said that a balanced budget amendment and abandoning earmarks were some of his top concerns.
Rubio seeks to freeze non-defense, non-veterans spending at 2008 levels. Further, he has co-sponsored legislation that would require all savings from congressional budgets to be used for debt reduction.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid reform are also among Rubio's top priorities. For Social Security, Rubio wants to raise the retirement age for those currently under 55, as well as reduce cost of living adjustments.
In his initial 2010 primary with Gov. Charlie Crist, Rubio picked up a number of conservative endorsements, including 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) endorsed Rubio in February 2010.
When it became obvious that he would lose, Crist ultimately dropped out of the GOP primary and ran as an independent (that didn't help, either).