Early Life in Miami and Las Vegas:
Few politicians have risen as fast on the national stage as Marco Rubio, Florida's Cuban-American senator.
Rubio was born on May 28, 1971 in Miami to Mario Rubio and Oria Garcia, who were born in Cuba and emigrated to the United States in 1956, several years before Fidel Castro rose to power.
The family moved to Las Vegas when Marco was 8. Mario worked as a bartender and Oria as a housekeeper. They returned to Miami in 1985.
Marco Rubio attended South Miami Senior High School and earned a football scholarship to Tarkio College in Tarkio, Mo. After one year, Rubio moved back to Florida and enrolled at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville. He went on to earn a degree at the University of Florida, then earned his law degree at the University of Miami in 1996.
Rapid Rise in Republican Politics:
While at Miami, Rubio interned for Republican U.S. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen. His first elected office was as a city commissioner for West Miami. In 2000, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and in 2006, was voted speaker of the Florida House.
Rubio quickly became a rising star in a Republican Party that was eager to find a candidate capable of appealing to Latino voters on a national level. In 2009, Rubio announced he was running for the U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez, another Cuban-American.
In November 2010, Rubio got 48% of the vote to defeat former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (29.7%), and independent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek (20.1%) and win the senatorial election.
With the Senate victory, Rubio’s star continued to rise among Republicans, and he became a favorite of the Tea Party for supporting lower taxes and smaller government. A Roman Catholic, Rubio opposes abortion.
Controversy Over His Exile Biography:
Rubio’s description of his biography drew criticism in 2011. He had repeatedly claimed during the campaign for office that his parents were forced to flee Cuba to escape the Castro regime. In fact, they had left Cuba during Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship, three years before Castro overthrew the government.
Rubio defended his accounts, saying they were accurate in spirit if not chronologically precise. He continues to consider himself a “son of exiles” and remains popular within South Florida’s Cuban exile community.
Urging Republicans Toward More Moderate Immigration Policy:
Early in 2012, Rubio’s name started coming up as a possible vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket with nominee Mitt Romney. Rubio has repeatedly denied his interest in running and says he is committed to serving out his term in the Senate.
While some Republicans may concede that he isn’t ready yet to run for national office, they are counting on Rubio to help bring the party closer to Hispanic voters. Some polls early in 2012 found close to a 40% advantage among Hispanics for President Obama against any Republican opponent.
Rubio is trying at least to change the political by writing a Republican version of the DREAM Act, legislation that will allow some breaks for the children of undocumented immigrants. Unlike the Democratic DREAM Act that died in Congress in 2010, Rubio’s plan does not allow permanent residency or college tuition reductions, but it does allow undocumented students to study, work, get driver licenses and enlist in the U.S. military.
Rubio has also called for restraint among fellow Republicans when it comes to articulating positions on immigration issues. He told the Wall Street Journal: “The policies are important, but the rhetoric is sometimes the impediment. Sometimes, and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, the way the message is communicated is harmful and has hurt Republicans.”
He went on to say “the Republican Party needs to be the pro-legal-immigration party. We need to say, ‘We believe in immigration and we think it’s good for America.’ But it has to be an orderly, a system based on law, a system that works.”
Family Life in Miami:
In 1997, Rubio married Jeanette Dousdebes, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader who is of Colombian descent. The couple has four children: Amanda, Daniella, Anthony and Dominic. They reside in West Miami.