On Wednesday night, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) essentially took himself out of the vice presidential sweepstakes.

“I am not going to be the vice presidential nominee,’’ he said at the Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum in Washington. “The answer is gonna be no.”

Rubio, a rising star in the his party and a tea party favorite, had been mentioned most often as a GOP vice presidential contender.

So what does this mean for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who had also been mentioned as a possible No. 2 on the Republican ticket?

Party strategists say it could be a boost to the governor of a swing state with high approval ratings.

“Bob McDonnell has to be in the conversation,’’ said Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee.

McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has said he intends to complete his term as governor but that he would be willing to serve on a 2012 presidential ticket if asked.

“I’m not campaigning for it. I’m not lobbying for it. I’m not asking for it. I’m not expecting it all,’’ McDonnell said recently. “All I’ve said is, if any governor in America gets a call from a candidate [who] says, ‘Hey, I’d like you to help my ticket. Would you be on it?’ I’d say, sure, I’d think about it.”

The governor said last week in New Hampshire that he has not spoken to Mitt Romney or Rick Perry about running mates, though he often speaks to them.

In July, Romney reportedly said at a Virginia Beach fundraiser that McDonnell would be on “any candidate’s short list” for vice president. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry, appearing at a Richmond fundraiser with McDonnell this month, avoided a question about whether he would consider the governor for the No. 2 spot.

Others mentioned as potential GOP running mates are Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and John Thune (S.D.), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Responding to a wave of pressure from supporters for him to join the presidential campaign, Christie announced Tuesday that he would not run.