Sen. Marco Rubio's political stock continues to rise

6:17 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was already a rock star within the GOP, but his political stock seems to be soaring these days.

Tomorrow's Time magazine cover will call him the "Savior of the Republican Party." And next week the media momentum continues as Rubio is tapped to deliver the Republican response to president Obama's State of the Union address.

That's a big deal, says UDF Political Science Professor Seth McKee.

"You don't put out the people who you don't think aren't the best most viable candidates for the presidency," said McKee.

Senator Rubio was quick to respond on Twitter to Time's choice of words.

"There's only one savior," he wrote, "and it's not me. #Jesus".

Still, on Thursday in the Bay area some of Florida's heaviest GOP hitters, including Gov. Rick Scott, weighed-in on Rubio's rise with glowing remarks.

"He's doing a great job up there," said Gov. Scott, "He'd be a great president. He's working hard, he's trying to deal with the issues."

Rubio does has some political baggage too. He has close ties to a U.S. Representative investigated for tax evasion. He is hounded by allegations of personal misuse of GOP funds when he was Florida's speaker of the house.

And then there's Rubio's endearing but ultimately false claim that his parents fled Castro's Cuba. It was learned they had in fact left years before.

The issues may dog him, says McKee, but they're "probably not big enough of a hurdle for him to move forward."

Once anointed by the Tea Party, Rubio also seems to be forming a coalition now. He's done an about-face: embracing more popular, centrist views on immigration.

And during a recent appearance on a the tech-savvy social media site BuzzFeed, Rubio said while supporting traditional marriage, he would oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.

What does it all point to?

"A lot of us think he looks like he's running for the White House now," said McKee.

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