Rubio Showcases His Star Power

By Caitlin Huey-Burns, RealClearPolitics - August 30, 2012

TAMPA -- On the final night of their nominating convention, the Republicans sent to the podium a man considered their most valuable and talented speaker as a contrast to a president widely perceived as one of the most gifted orators of his generation.

That man wasn't the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, but rather the one who introduced Romney to America's voters.

The son of working-class Cuban immigrants, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio often points to his own biography as an example of the American Dream. But in his prime-time address Thursday night, Rubio tied his own family’s story to Romney’s as a living illustration of America’s exceptionalism.

Rubio described sacrifices made by his parents -- his mother a store clerk and his father a banquet bartender. “He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room,” Rubio said to a standing ovation.

“That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle,” Rubio said. “. . . It's the story of a man who was born into an uncertain future in a foreign country. His family came to America to escape revolution. They struggled through poverty and the great depression. And yet he rose to be an admired businessman and public servant. And in November, his son, Mitt Romney, will be elected president of the United States.”

Romney’s father was born in Mexico, and his grandparents returned to the United States during the Mexican Revolution.

Rubio’s portrait of Romney aimed to not only contrast his image as a wealthy businessman --which Democrats often use to portray the Republican nominee as being out of touch with ordinary people -- but to offer encouragement to struggling Americans.

“To make sure America is still a place where tomorrow is always better than yesterday, that is what our politics should be about,” Rubio said. “And that is what we are deciding in this election.”

Rubio was logical choice to introduce the GOP nominee. He’s young, charismatic, and Latino -- at a time Republicans are trying to correct their deficit with youthful voters and Hispanics, not to mention address a charisma gap between their nominee and the Democrats’. And Rubio did not disappoint. Frequently interrupted by applause, the handsome freshman senator alluded to his own tender age -- he just turned 41 -- spoke Spanish briefly in his speech, and was unstinting in his praise of the GOP standard-bearer.

At the same time, Rubio also introduced himself on the national stage. He is considered a fast-rising star who represents a diverse wave of the party -- showcased this week by several women and Latino speakers -- and someone who may one day embark on his own presidential bid.

Still, Rubio knew the night belonged to Mitt Romney, and he argued that the former Massachusetts governor was best equipped to protect and preserve the dreams his parents held when they fled Cuba in the 1950s.

“The story of our time will be written by Americans who haven’t yet been born,” he said. “Let’s make sure they write that we did our part. That we chose more freedom instead of more government. We chose the principles of our founding to solve the challenges of our time. We chose Mitt Romney to lead our nation. And because we did, the American Miracle lived on for another generation to inherit.”

Rubio, once vetted by Romney as a vice presidential contender, took a measured swing at the president, whom he described as divisive.

“Our problem with President Obama isn’t that he’s a bad person. By all accounts, he too is a good husband, and a good father. And thanks to lots of practice, a pretty good golfer,” Rubio quipped. “Our problem is he’s a bad president.”

Rubio, though, cautioned that the November election was not solely a referendum on the president. “It doesn’t matter how you feel about President Obama because this election is about your future. It’s not about his.” 

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