2012 Republican National Convention
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During the final night of the Republican National Convention, the freshman Florida senator from West Miami took to the podium and galvanized an already enthusiastic crowd eager to put Romney in the White House as the 45th president.
Rubio's selection as the Republican to introduce Romney was a well-deserved nod, several GOP leaders said Thursday.
"He's young, he's very articulate, he's very smart, he's got a good track record, he was Speaker of the Florida House, he won a statewide race ... and he's very popular," said east coast U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, who was in Tampa for the convention. "He was many people's choice for VP and I'm sure he was on the shortlist. So it's altogether fitting and proper that he should be in this lineup."
Outgoing Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon of Winter Park agreed.
"Having served with Marco when he was Speaker and I was in the House, and knowing him as I do, he is one of the most charismatic and energizing speakers I've ever heard," said Cannon, who also was attending the convention. "It comes from the heart, and I think he (was) the ideal person to speak on the floor tonight."
Cannon said the move thrusts Rubio into the national spotlight, a move that could cement his position as a top party leader in Florida, and the country.
"The one thing I can say about his future is it's bright, it's up to him," he said. "But I think his future is going to be brighter than any of us can picture right now."
For those who have watched the 41-year-old Miami native ascend the heights of political stardom, Thursday night's speech didn't have much new in it.
But it wasn't for insiders. His remarks were aimed at a national crowd that knows relatively little about Rubio, the son of a Cuban immigrant bartender and a maid, and the only Hispanic Republican in the U.S. Senate.
His rousing speech, about 30 minutes long, focused on Romney and why he is poised and ready to lead the country.
"Tonight we've heard for a long time now about Mitt Romney's success in business; it's well known. But we've also learned that he is so much more than that," Rubio said. "Mitt Romney is a devoted husband, a father, a grandfather, a generous member of his community and church, a role model for younger Americans like myself.
"Everywhere he's been, he's volunteered his time and talent to make this better for those around him. And we are blessed that a man like this will soon be the president of these United States."
A lawyer who first won office at age 26, Rubio cultivated powerful political allies along the way, while serving on the West Miami City Commission and then in the Florida Legislature. He left the Legislature in 2009 after serving as House speaker for two years.
In 2010, Rubio did what seemed like the impossible: He beat Gov. Charlie Crist to capture an open U.S. Senate seat. He also chased Crist out of the Republican Party. Crist then ran as an independent and now plans to become a registered Democrat and speaker at next week's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Rubio is so sought-after that he conducted nine interviews in 97 minutes Monday, from local television stations to Black Entertainment Television, CNN, CNN Español, Telemundo, Univision and Fox. On Wednesday, more than a dozen cameras and more than two dozen reporters surrounded Rubio after a walk-through on the convention floor.