ORLANDO, Fla. -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich doubled down on his admiration for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), telling an enthusiastic crowd at his final rally on Monday that he was eyeing him as a potential running mate if he wins the GOP nomination for president.
"I'm not going to get into the vice president. First we have to win the nomination," he said in response to a shout from the audience about his vice presidential preference.
"RUBIO!" shouted a man in the crowd.
"But I will say that you have a U.S. senator here who looks awfully good," agreed Gingrich.
Of course, there are two senators in Florida. But one is Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a man Gingrich often tells his Florida audiences to vote out of office.
It's not the first time Gingrich has hinted that he would like Rubio to be his running mate. During Thursday's debate in Jacksonville, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said he would consider putting Rubio in his cabinet if he becomes president.
"You know, at the cabinet level I think of somebody like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen," said Gingrich, referring to the Republican congresswoman from Florida. "I actually thought about Marco Rubio on a slightly more dignified and central role, then being in the cabinet, but that's another conversation."
Rubio has not endorsed in the GOP primary, even though he has been highly sought after by the candidates.
Rubio has repeatedly said he does not want to be vice president -- but no one seems to believe him since he keeps getting asked about it anyway.
"I'm not focused on that; I'm focused on my job right now," he said, when asked about his vice presidential prospects in October at the Washington Ideas Forum. "And the answer's probably going to be no -- the answer's going to be no."
The Associated Press reported that when asked about the issue last week, Rubio "gave two answers to the endorsement question: a subtle 'no' followed by a more emphatic 'no.'"
Rubio remains very popular in the Republican Party in Florida. A Jan. 10 Quinnipiac poll found that nearly 80 percent of Republicans and nearly half of independents approved of the job he is doing. A quarter of Democrats agreed.
Gingrich's suggestion was popular with the attendees at his rally, which took place at the Renaissance Hotel near the Orlando airport.
"That would be so great. I love Marco Rubio. He's an American hero," Bruce Adams, a Vietnam veteran, told The Huffington Post. "He's never been in the service or anything, but he is fighting for the American veterans. Anybody who is fighting for the American veterans is on my team."
"I think he's the No. 1 guy that everyone would love," said Carole McCall, an Orlando native. She said that while she liked him, her top pick would be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Even though Gingrich is lagging significantly behind Mitt Romney in the polls before Tuesday's election in Florida, he told rally goers that not only does he think he will win, but he predicts he will win big.
"We are going to win a decisive victory tomorrow, with your help," he said.