(NEW YORK) — When he takes the convention stage Thursday night, Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the GOP’s rising Latino stars, will not only introduce Mitt Romney on the evening he formally accepts his party’s nomination, but offer a glimpse of where the Republican Party is heading.
Rubio, 41, is part of the new wave of young, diverse Republicans who are on display at this year’s convention. The Florida junior senator, who is considered one of the GOP’s most electrifying speakers, will add to the chorus of testimonies touting Romney’s personal and leadership qualities as the GOP works to woo undecided voters, including women and Latinos.
Rubio, whose family immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1950s, experienced a meteoric rise within the GOP ranks during the swell of the Tea Party movement in 2010, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, a seat he’s held for less than two years. Many believe Rubio’s calls for rising above petty politics, and his growing popularity among the GOP faithful, coupled with his youth and Latin roots signal a potential presidential bid of his own down the line.
Rubio is part attack dog, part party uniter, all while touting his Cuban descent and family’s story of achieving the American dream. Romney has even taken to incorporating Rubio’s American dream narrative into his stump speeches.
“[Rubio] said something that will stay with me a long time,” Romney said at a June Rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “He said when I was a boy living poor in this country with my family, we saw some other homes, great big homes and fancy cars. He said, ‘I never heard my parents say why can’t we have what they have. Instead my parents said aren’t we lucky to live in a country where with education and hard work, there’s a shot we have of earning that ourselves.’ That’s the nature of America. We’re the land of opportunity.”
Romney and Rubio’s relationship dates back to 2010, when Romney endorsed Rubio in his Senate bid a few weeks before Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, announced he’d run as an independent. Before he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney said his team had been vetting Rubio as a potential VP pick.
Rubio, who campaigned with Romney in Florida and Pennsylvania this election cycle, will speak about how the former Massachusetts governor acts as a “role model” for young people in this country.
“Mitt Romney, who has lived his life in a way that’s not just admirable but really a role model, irrespective of how people may feel about his policies. They may disagree with him on policies, but you look at the way he’s lived his life as a husband, as a father, as a member of his community, really a role model for younger Americans and what we should all aspire for our kids to be,” Rubio told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Wednesday.
“And then, also, the choice that America has between two very different views of government’s role in our economy. That’s really what this election is about. It’s not just a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, it’s a choice between two very different futures. I hope I can do that for him.”
Rubio has called President Obama the most “divisive figure in modern American history.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Azadeh Ansari and Angela Dewan, CNN
Dakin Andone, CNN
Dylan Byers, CNN