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Marco Rubio moves closer to 2016 bid. Does he have a chance?

The field of Republican presidential hopefuls is already crowded, but Marco Rubio may be able to distinguish himself as a fresh face among legacy front-runners.

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    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 17. Senator Rubio has begun to take 'concrete steps' toward establishing a 2016 campaign for president, ABC News reported Friday morning.
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Looks like Marco Rubio is going to run for president after all. The first-term Republican senator from Florida has begun to take “concrete steps” toward a 2016 bid, ABC News reports Friday morning. He’s asked his top aides to lay out a plan, hired a well-known fundraiser, and booked travel to a bunch of early-voting states in coming weeks.

“He has told us to proceed as if he is running for president,” a top Rubio aide told ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

This isn’t exactly a surprise, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, either. Some political pros had thought Rubio might decide to sit out this election cycle. He’s young enough to wait, he’s flopped around a bit on immigration policy, and there’s already a Floridian in the race – ex-governor Jeb Bush, who’ll corral a lot of Sunshine State political talent and money.

Recommended: 14 Republicans running in 2016

But at a Monitor breakfast this week Senator Rubio indicated that Bush’s plans would not affect his own. He wasn’t considering whether he should run for Florida governor before running for US president as a means to bolster his credentials.

“I don’t have a 10-year plan for political progress,” Rubio said at the CSM breakfast. “I just deal with the opportunities as they emerge.”

In the end, Rubio might still decide to pull back from an official candidacy. He badly needs to build name recognition and support; right now he’s only attracting 4.5 percent of the GOP vote in the RealClearPolitics average of major 2016 polls.

But Friday's news turns up the dial on his effort and tells us a few things about the race in general, and Rubio’s 2016 perceptions in particular.

First, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney aren’t clearing the field. Bush has moved aggressively, announcing an exploratory committee and forming super PACs, while Romney’s evinced surprising interest in a race. That hasn’t scared off other candidates who might compete with them for the establishment and business wings of the GOP, however. Rubio’s moving. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has scheduled trips to the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Second, Rubio’s looking to President Obama for inspiration. Not in any ideological or policy sense, but in terms of baseline experience. Obama won the White House as a first-term Senate backbencher. If he could do it, why can’t Rubio? Many political strategists think voters might be looking for a governor with executive experience as their presidential choice in 2016, but political strategists say lots of stuff. Some of it is wrong.

Finally, the real divisions in the Republican primary field this time might be generational. Rubio isn’t a party outsider. He’s not a tea party favorite. He doesn’t have a support base among evangelicals, or Wall Street’s nod. But he hasn’t run for president twice before, like Mitt Romney. Or even once before, like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. None of his relatives have been president, like Jeb Bush’s brother and Dad.

But if it turns out GOP primary voters are tired of the same-old, then Rubio can present himself as a fresh hat in the ring.

“Politics is often unpredictable. If Rubio can somehow come up with the $50M nut he’ll need to make it through to next January, he may just surprise us,” writes Jazz Shaw at the right-leaning Hot Air site.

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