, the junior U.S. senator from Florida who was vetted as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney in 2012, is inching ahead in the polls of potential 2016 contenders.
A Cuban American native of Miami, Fla., Rubio graduated from the University of Florida and the University of Miami Law School before serving as a city commissioner for West Miami. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000, and moved up to Florida Speaker of the House in 2006.
Rubio announced a run for the U.S. Senate in 2009 and overcame a double-digit deficit to beat out the incumbent Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination. In November 2010, he won a three-way race against Crist, who ran on an independent ticket, and Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek.
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Here are five things to know about Marco Rubio:
Rubio Leads the Republican Pack for 2016
Rubio leads the polls of potential Republican 2016 presidential contenders
, according to a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. In a nationwide survey of registered voters, 18 percent would vote for Rubio, 16 percent would vote for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and 14 percent would vote for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The numbers are tighter now, but Rubio has led the field since December, according to a survey from Public Policy Polling.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton leads Democrats by a landslide with 63 percent, according to April poll numbers.
The Sip That Made Rubio Famous
Rubio's response to President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address put him on social media's radar.
Though he had developed a strong political following prior to his 2013 State of the Union response, the speech made Rubio a household name, mostly because of his signature water bottle grab that instantly went viral on social media.
Rubio's light-hearted response to the gaffe ("God has a funny way of reminding us that we're human") gave him a likeability factor Americans appreciated.
He also savvily turned an "oops" moment into a marketing tool for his political action committee. Rubio reportedly collected more than $100,000
through personalized water bottle sales.
Rubio Is a Modern-day Conservative
Rubio is a charismatic, young, minority senator, the Republicans' "black guy," Conan O'Brien said at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. He makes an effort to stay relevant, embracing social media, and using pop culture references in political speeches.
Rubio showed his support for Sen. Rand Paul's nearly 13-hour filibuster in March by quoting people he considers "modern day poets," including actors in "The Godfather" film and rappers Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z.
In a speech peppered with pop culture references,
Rubio mentioned Khalifa's song "Work Hard Play Hard," the famous line from "The Godfather" ("I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse"), and a verse from Jay-Z's hit "A Week Ago," quoting the song, "It's funny what seven days can change. It was all good just a week ago."
"His leadership would also allow for a public image of the Republican Party
that moves away in some degree from the perception of a party of old, white men," writes Edward Morrissey of The Fiscal Times.
Rubio Is GOP Emissary on Immigration
While the majority of Republicans are weary of immigration-reform legislation, Rubio is perhaps the leading conservative
campaigning for giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. He even helped write a bill that outlines his multistep plan.
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"To deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 recognizes the reality that they are not going home,"
Rubio wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in May. "It offers them an opportunity for legalization and, potentially, permanent residence and citizenship — provided they pay fines, pass background checks, don't receive federal benefits, and wait in line behind everybody who followed the rules, among other requirements."
His plan defies the traditional Republican view that offering citizenship to undocumented immigrants is virtually the same as amnesty.
Where Rubio Stands on Issues
Rubio opposes what he calls "Obamacare" and has proposed his own set of ideas to change the current system. His proposal includes allowing individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines, giving them the same tax breaks that businesses get when buying health insurance, and increasing the number of community health centers.
Rubio is pro-life and has called the right to life one of the most fundamental of all rights. He believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and based on a flawed reading of the U.S. Constitution. He opposes same-sex marriage and believes states should define marriage in the "traditional way."
Rubio is a supporter of gun rights, and has called the Second Amendment the "cornerstone to our democracy." He has said publically that he would oppose any legislation that would impose Second Amendment restrictions on "responsible, law-abiding gun owners."
Rubio opposed the bailout and the stimulus. Although he has received some criticism for his fiscal positions, he remains resolute in his opposition to tax increases.
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