ST. PETERSBURG — He hasn't yet been elected to the U.S. Senate. But that isn't stopping folks from talking up the prospects of a Marco Rubio run for president in 2012.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee added his voice to the speculation Tuesday, saying at an event in St. Petersburg that he wouldn't be shocked if Rubio ran for the GOP presidential nomination.
"I've said to people he is in my mind a good kind of what I would call a Republican Barack Obama — a person that no one's ever heard of but has had a meteoric rise," said Huckabee, now a Fox News commentator. "Now I'm not having any illusions he's going to get elected in '10 and run in '12.
"But Marco's got all the skills and tools and talents to be whatever he wants to be."
Rubio supported Huckabee's presidential campaign in 2008 and even traveled to New Hampshire on Huckabee's behalf. Huckabee, in turn, supports Rubio in his primary battle with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
Huckabee also has been mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate.
"I'm awfully proud to say I was with (Rubio) when he was 50 points down, not 50 points up," Huckabee said. "Now I feel like a prophet."
Who's more likely to run for president in 2012: Huckabee or Rubio?
"Gee, I don't know, maybe him," Huckabee said. "If he throws his hat in the ring, I'm there with him."
Huckabee was in town to speak to more than 450 people at Northside Christian School about Christian education. After a 40-minute speech that mixed in old stories from his family, his time in Arkansas and his 2008 campaign, Huckabee took questions from the audience.
Then Huckabee, on bass guitar, joined former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, on guitar, and Northside Christian's jazz band to play Jump Jive An' Wail.
In an interview before his speech, Huckabee, 53, said he hoped President Obama would nominate an evangelical Christian to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Of the remaining eight justices, six are Catholic and two are Jewish. Huckabee, however, doesn't expect it.
Huckabee also tried to downplay recent comments attributed to him by student journalists in New Jersey that same-sex marriage is on par with polygamy and incest. He said the comments were taken out of context and the account was sensationalized. The paper, the Perspective of the College of New Jersey, has stood by its story.
"Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," Huckabee said. "That's what marriage means, and that's what I've always believed.
"What's been written is enough to make me not to want to talk to anyone in the press."
Aaron Sharockman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2273.