By Elaine de Valle, VOXXI
In the last few days, Washington insiders were buzzing about two names: Ryan and Rubio.
Insiders told VOXXI that the contest for the vice presidential nomination came to be a race in the last weeks between the three Rs: Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Then last week, the talk was all Ryan and Rubio, Rubio and Ryan.
The Cuban-American from Miami must have known early, however, that he had not made the final cut: Rubio was on vacation with his wife and kids at an undisclosed location when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Ryan would be his running mate.
The Florida Senator and best-selling author — who mixed campaigning with a tour of his recently released book, An American Son — is going to need that rest. Because the election isn’t over for him.
“Marco Rubio now becomes the Romney/Ryan ticket’s top national surrogate,” said U.S. Congressman David Rivera, one of Rubio’s closest friends who served with him in the Florida House. Rubio’s role in the campaign will be as a fill-in, in other words.
“Wherever Romney and Ryan cannot be to campaign, Marco Rubio will be the first choice to stump for the presidential ticket,” Rivera said in a telephone interview, shortly after the announcement was made while still listening to reaction on National Public Radio.
“Romney’s Veep selection process has culminated with Ryan as VP and Rubio as the virtual deputy VP. No one will receive more surrogate speaking duty on behalf of the GOP ticket than Marco Rubio,” Rivera told VOXXI.
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told VOXXI she was pleased that Rubio was passed over.
“I’m glad Marco was not selected,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a telephone interview from her home in Pinecrest, Fla. “Because now we’ll have eight years of Romney/Ryan and then he’ll be back in 2020, but not as the number two, as the top of the ticket. He’ll be the man.”
Rubio said in a statement that Romney had made another one of his “great decisions” by picking the 7-term Wisconsin congressman and Tea Party darling. “Choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate is a truly inspired choice,” Rubio said. “Paul Ryan is a courageous reformer who understands our nation’s challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama and other Washington politicians trying to tear him down.”
Rubio said he got to know Ryan during his Senate campaign. “He endorsed me early on when I was still considered a long shot,” Rubio said. Now, he added, he looks forward to returning the favor.
“The Romney-Ryan ticket is going to win in November because it offers the American people visionary leadership to recapture the free enterprise spirit that has empowered countless Americans to build businesses from scratch and live the American dream,” Rubio said in his statement. “I’m excited about the visionary change a Romney-Ryan team will bring to Washington, and I look forward to campaigning with them this fall.”
Rubio was an attractive potential No. 2 for several reasons. He is a new face in the Republican establishment with charismatic speech and a Hispanic name that could sway the Latino vote. He is middle of the road on immigration issues, not embracing full amnesty but proposing a DREAM Act “Lite” before President Barack Obama’s order in June to halt deportations. His harsh and increasing criticism of Obama’s policies have become more frequent and focused.
But he also brought baggage: The freshman senator would have been blasted for his lack of experience would he have had to step in as President. He has four years left in his first term — which just happens to end in time for the next presidential race — and he was chided last month by the Florida Ethics Commission in its review of a complaint filed against him in his 2010 Senate race for misuse of campaign funds. While the complaint cleared Rubio of any wrongdoing, the investigator who wrote the close-out memo said the senator showed “negligence” by failing to recognize the difference between his personal credit card and a GOP American Express card — or catch the error in several monthly statements.
Still, Rubio’s star has not stopped rising, many observers and friends told VOXXI. In fact, the VP picking process has catapulted him into a national arena he will use further between now and November to sway the vote to the Republican ticket.
Said Rivera: “When Romney is in Virginia and Ryan is in Ohio, who are they going to be asking for in New Mexico? Marco Rubio.”
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of Romney’s Hispanic Steering Committee, agreed that Rubio will not disappear from the Election 2012 scene any time soon.
“Marco Rubio is a huge asset to the Republican Party,” Diaz-Balart told VOXXI. “The fact that he was considered after just getting elected two years ago, the fact that he could have been chosen vice president already really says a lot. He’s already become the most effective senator from Florida.”
Diaz-Balart, like many DC regulars and political pundits, also sees the 41-year-old senator’s omnipresence in the VP stakes and discussion as a sign that Rubio will be a force to reckon with in 2016 or 2020.
“He’s a national leader,” the Congressman told VOXXI. “And the more the country gets to know him, the more they realize what we who know him already know — that he is a brilliant, thoughtful leader and his potential, as much as people are beginning to notice, his potential is limitless.”
“He has such a bright future,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “He better put his shades on.”
“Marco was already a great leader of the Republican Part and his career is going to continue to rise,” said former U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who is friends with both Rubio and Ryan, adding that Rubio would continue to have influence over voters in the November elections.
“He’s an extraordinary spokesman and leader with a tremendous future, and already an extraordinary presence,” Diaz-Balart, the older brother of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart told VOXXI.
“This was not a choice against Marco Rubio. You can only name one vice presidential running mate.”
Addressing The Republican National Convention
Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
At The Republican National Convention
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is surrounded by reporters during a tour of the convention floor at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Playful On A Romney Bus Tour
IN FLIGHT, FL - AUGUST 13: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) pretends to throw an orange as Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney looks on aboard his campaign plane on August 13, 2012 en route to Miami, Florida. Mitt Romney continues his multi state bus tour after announcing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
At The Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS Breakfast
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 24: (L-R) U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, and Sir Elton John meet after The Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS breakfast at the Russell Senate Office Building on July 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Elton John AIDS Foundation)
Campaigning For Mitt Romney
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., signs a Romney sign for a supporter at a rally for presidential candidate Mitt Romney at C.C. Ronnow Elementary School in Las Vegas Saturday, July 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher) LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LAS VEGAS SUN OUT
With Mel Martinez At NALEO Conference
Former Sen. Mel Martinez, left, R-Fla., greets Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., after he introduced him at the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) conference, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
At The XIX International AIDS Conference
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., accompanied by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a session entitled: 'The U.S. Congress and the Global AIDS Epidemic" Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
At the Council on Foreign Relations
US Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations May 31, 2012 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)
Addressing the Latino Coalition's Small Business Summit Luncheon
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the Latino Coalition's annual economic summitt on May 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. Rubio spoke after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed the same group. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Unveiling the bipartisan Startup Act 2.0
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (C) speaks during news conference with America Online co-founder and member of the President's Council on Jobs & Competitiveness Steve Case (L) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) at the U.S. Capitol May 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. Cas and the senators held a press conference to unveil the bipartisan Startup Act 2.0. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Questioned by Marvin Kalb
WASHINGTON - APRIL 25: Brookings guest scholar Marvin Kalb (L) questions Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) after an address on American foreign policy at the Brookings Institution on April 25, 2012 in Washington, DC. Rubio is widely considered to be a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Campaigning with Mitt Romney
ASTON, PA - APRIL 23: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) arrives before a town hall during a campaign stop with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (L) at Mustang Expediting April 23, 2012 in Aston, Pennsylvania. Romney continues his campaign as the presumptive GOP candidate the day before the Pennsylvania primary. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
Activists Protest Rubio's Support Of "Stand Your Ground" Law
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 09: Caterina De Quesada and other supporters of Trayvon Martin gather for a rally in front of Florida Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) office to ask him to retract his support for Florida's so called 'Stand Your Ground' gun law following the Trayvon Martin killing on April 9, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman on February 26th while Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Protesting Rubio's policies on immigration
Felipe Matos(C), a college student from Miami, Florida along with other protesters denounces Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a possible vice presidential candidate running with Mitt Romney, outside the US Capitol building in Washington, DC on March 1, 2012, for Rubio's policies that they say are too tough on immigrants. As Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney secured his lead this week with primary wins in Michigan and Arizona, Rubio is emerging as his most likely vice presidential candidate. Rubio, (R-FL) supports laws that would crack down on illegal immigration. AFP PHOTO/TOM RAMSTACK (Photo credit should read Tom Ramstack/AFP/Getty Images)
Senate GOP And Democrats Discuss Supreme Court Oral Arguments On Affordable Care Act
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi participate in a news conference about the Supreme Court's second day of hearings on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. Bondi and 25 other attorneys general brought the case before the Supreme Court. Both Republicans and Democrats paid close attention to the questions and statements by Justice Anthony Kennedy during the court proceedings. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. James Risch (R-ID) talk while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the committee about the department's FY2013 international affairs budget February 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. Clinton faced questions ranging from the cost of embassies in Iraq and the Middle East to the START Treaty with Russia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
At CPAC 2012
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivers a speech titled, 'Is America Still an Exceptional Nation?' during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. Thousands of conservative activists are expected to attend the annual gathering in the nation's capital. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Being greeted at the 2012 Latino Coalition annual economic summit
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. is greeted at the Latino Coalition annual economic summit, Wednesday, May 23, 2012, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
With David Rivera, Republican candidate for Congress
FILE - In this Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, left, talks to reporters as David Rivera, Republican candidate for Congress, right, looks on in Miami. Rubio's relationship with fellow freshman lawmaker Rivera, now facing a federal probe into tax evasion, and a credit card controversy surfaced during his 2010 Senate campaign and didn't have much effect. But that doesn't mean the country as a whole would overlook such eyebrow-raising issues, if Rubio were to show interest in the No. 2 slot on the presidential ticket this year. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
Ceremonial Swearing-In Held For New Congress Members
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 5: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) waits with his mother-in-law Maria Elena Fleites (L), son Anthony (2L), daughter Amanda (2R) and son Domonick (R) for the Senate Subway after a ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber of Capitol Hill January 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. Returning Senators and freshman were sworn in today as the 112th Congress began its session after the 2010 midterm elections. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
At news conference with Senators Lieberman and McCain on Syria
WASHINGTON - MAY 11: U.S. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) listens to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (R) speak during a news conference about the crisis in Syria May 11, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Lieberman and Rubio will introduce a resolution to calling on the U.S. government to have a tougher stance in the crisis in Syria. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Republican Senators Introduce FY2012 Budget Proposal
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (2nd L) answers reporters' questions during a news conference to introduce a balanced budget proposal with (L-R) Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Jim DeMint (R_SC), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), and nd Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) at the U.S. Capitol May 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. Toomey said the proposal will balance the federal budget by 2020. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)