Young and charismatic, Marco Rubio burst onto the national scene in 2010 when he defeated then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to become the junior senator from Florida. Dubbed by some the GOP’s Barack Obama, Senator Rubio has managed his image carefully, delivering serious policy addresses and initially playing down any designs on higher office.
In another echo of Mr. Obama, he delivered perhaps the best-received speech of the 2012 Republican National Convention. After the election, Rubio could be less coy. He went to Iowa to speak at a fundraiser for the governor.
More recently, Rubio was instrumental in getting the Florida legislature to push back the state’s presidential primary, a move that played well in Iowa.
Rubio was a leader in the Senate in passing comprehensive immigration reform. Latinos welcomed his calls for compassion, but Rubio’s standing among conservatives fell. In late October 2013, Rubio backed away from comprehensive immigration reform and recommended that Congress make piecemeal changes. He also joined tea partyers in the Senate in supporting a government shutdown as a way to force defunding of Obamacare. Polls now show Rubio in the middle of the GOP nomination pack.
Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants, and could help the GOP recover from Mitt Romney’s poor showing among Latinos (though not all Latinos feel warmly toward Cuban-Americans, who have special immigration status). Still, pride among Latinos that one of their own could become president might override reservations.
As a Floridian, Rubio would be positioned to win his state’s crucial primary. And if he won the nomination, he would have an excellent shot at winning the nation’s biggest battleground state.