Is Marco Rubio brightest rising star of tea party?

Florida senator-elect Marco Rubio will head to Washington as a tea party favorite, but his political experience and immigrant background make him a different kind of tea partyer.

Alan Diaz/AP
Republican Sen.-elect Marco Rubio celebrates his win with supporters in Coral Gables, Fla., Tuesday.

Marco Rubio’s is young, articulate, conservative, and as of Tuesday night, a Senator-elect from Florida. Is he the tea party’s brightest rising star?

Well, he’s not a national leader of the loosely-organized political movement, like Sarah Palin or Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina. He may not have the name recognition of Kentucky senator-elect Rand Paul.

But Mr. Rubio is a tortoise who steadily worked his way to victory over the early leader in the Florida Senate sweepstakes, Republican-turned-Independent Gov. Charlie Crist. As a former Speaker of the Florida state House, he has more experience in governing than do many other conservative insurgent candidates. And as the son of parents of modest means who began his higher education at community college, he has a compelling personal story he uses to emphasize his belief in the promise of the American dream.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, an early supporter, spoke at Rubio’s victory party Tuesday night.

“I am so proud he will be part of a next generation of leaders that will restore America,” said Mr. Bush, son of one president and brother of another. “Marco Rubio is the right man for the right time.”

Rubio got into the Senate race when it looked like popular incumbent Governor Crist was the presumptive winner. But the Cuban-American Miami resident emphasized a conservative message of smaller government, less taxation, and opposition to President Obama’s policies to the point where he drove the more moderate Crist out of the Republican Party.

Crist opted to run as an independent, counting on the his broad popularity to carry him to victory. But that popularity proved shallow, and his bid never really took off. In a three-way race with Crist and Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meek, Rubio prevailed easily. He won around 49 percent of the vote, with Crist taking 30 percent, and Meek 20 percent.

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