The Florida senator remains in the spotlight as a possible vice presidential choice for Mitt Romney.
There's something about Marco Rubio. Stick the Republican junior senator from Florida behind a lectern, and the Internet lights up with anticipation. Fly him to Guantanamo Bay for a first-in-his-life Cuba toe-touch, and headlines sprout.
Drop him in South Carolina for a speech, and the vice presidential speculation roars. It's been happening so fast for Rubio that mythologies were bound to proliferate. Let's separate some Rubio facts from fictions.
1. Marco Rubio is too inexperienced to be vice president.
Rubio's short time in Washington - he's been in the Senate only since January 2011 - is often cited as a drawback to his joining the Republican ticket. Well, there was another freshman senator whom voters deemed ready for the White House not long ago: Barack Obama.
Obama had been in the Senate barely two years when he announced that he was running for president. He came to Washington after serving three terms in the Illinois legislature. Rubio, 41, served four terms in the Florida legislature.
And Obama was far from being the power player in Illinois that Rubio was in Florida. Rubio served as majority whip, majority leader and speaker of the House. Almost from the moment he arrived in Tallahassee, he was in the middle of every hot issue, from education funding to property taxes.
Other arguments can be made for and against Rubio's ability to handle the job of vice president. But saying he doesn't have enough experience doesn't make much sense.
2. Rubio is a creation of the tea party movement.
Rubio has been hailed as the tea party's crown prince and, along with Rand Paul, one of its first senators. His embrace of the insurgent movement critical of both Republicans and Democrats gave him an anti-establishment imprimatur that helped fuel his startling victory in Florida's 2010 Senate race.
Lost in all the tea party hoopla is Rubio's long history as a rank-and-file Republican. In his 20s, he served as a county chairman for Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. In his early 30s, while in the legislature, he established a reputation as a savvy insider and partisan pit bull for one of his mentors, then-House Speaker Johnnie Byrd.
By the time Rubio ran for the Senate in his late 30s, he was a force in Florida GOP politics and had entree to Republican royalty through his close relationship with Gov. Jeb Bush.
Yes, he began his campaign as a long shot, and many powerful GOP figures first backed his primary opponent, Charlie Crist. But establishment Republicans had often clashed with Crist, and as his campaign flagged, influential members of the party quietly began shifting their support to Rubio. Once Crist decided to run as an independent, the establishment publicly took up Rubio as its champion.
3. Rubio's parents fled the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.
Rubio's parents' fictional flight from communism is the great creation myth of his ascent. During his rise and after his election to the Senate, Rubio portrayed himself as the son of exiles forced to flee Cuba after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.
He spread the story in his campaign and U.S. Senate biographies, which stated that his parents "came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover."
He repeated it in media interviews, telling Fox Business in 2009, for example, that "I think that the direction we're going in Washington, D.C., would make us more like the rest of the world, and not like the exceptional nation that my parents found when they came here from Cuba in 1959."
In reality, his parents, Mario and Oriales Rubio, arrived in the United States on May 27, 1956— two-and-a-half years before Castro took over and six months before he invaded the island.
Rubio corrected his Senate biography after The Washington Post and the St. Petersburg Times reported about the discrepancy in October 2011.
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