From Florida House speaker to U.S. senator to vice-presidential short-lister to … best-selling author?
Marco Rubio, the West-Miami Republican tea party favorite, is about to write about his life story, his political thoughts and the story of his improbable victory last year in the Senate race vs. former Gov. Charlie Crist.
"I think we have something to say," said Rubio in what might be the biggest understatement from one of the most eloquent elected conservatives.
"I'd like to tell a little bit about my upbringing, and how my upbringing has led me to some of the policy conclusions I've reached," he said. "And I'd like to tell about the campaign, my time in the Legislature."
Rubio, 40, not only carries the conservative message with a perfect pitch, he represents an idealized version of the American dream as the son of immigrants who rocketed to political stardom in just a few years.
If the response of conservatives to Rubio's political message and career are any measure, he's sure to pen a financial hit.
"I don't know about the rich part. People have to buy it," Rubio laughed.
So far, he doesn't have a publisher. But a dozen are interested and he has one of the most influential representatives when it comes to political autobiographies: Robert Barnett, lawyer with the powerhouse Washington firm of Williams and Connelly.
"The publishing community has expressed great interest in Sen. Rubio, in his personal story, in his campaign and in his views," Barnett said, adding that a portion of the book's profits will be donated to Florida charities.
Rubio's in good company when it comes to Barnett's clients, who include Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, first ladies Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush, Sarah Palin, Vice President Dick Cheney, journalist Bob Woodward, a handful of entertainment figures from Shania Twain to Barbra Streisand. Not to mention international leaders from Britain's Tony Blair, the prince of Wales, Jordan's Queen Noor and Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto.
The upcoming Rubio book won't look much like the one he compiled as Florida House speaker, 100 Ideas for Florida's Future. It was a policy manual that he used as a guide for his two years as Florida House speaker in 2007 and 2008 — a book that was overshadowed when he crusaded for property-tax cuts and clashed with Crist.
Rubio's tensions with Crist exploded during last year's Senate race — a campaign that initially looked like a quixotic political suicide mission against a wildly popular governor. Rubio, sometimes driving his own truck with aide Alex Burgos, worked the tea-party circuit and soon chased the governor out of the Republican Party.
"After the campaign and even during the campaign as it took the twists and turns, I thought the campaign itself would be an interesting story in and of itself for someone to think about — especially for people who are interested in politics," Rubio said.
But he said the book will be more than that.
"It's not an exposé. I'd like to give people some insight into what life is like in the Senate both from an issues perspective and from my perspective," Rubio said.
"I come from a center-right perspective on the issues. I want to justify those," he said. "But I hope, also, through a policy perspective, to lay out a compelling vision of limited government that I think will appeal to people and make the argument for that."
Rubio's statements about government have invited controversy. Liberal excoriated him for saying that entitlement programs such as Medicare and their financial problems have "weakened" the nation. They pointed out that Rubio had spoken about how his ailing father, who recently passed away, had used Medicare services in his final days.
Rubio later said he wasn't calling for the end of Medicare or Social Security; he was just concerned that these programs are going broke and that, by relying on government, neighborhoods and church groups had less incentive to be involved in caring for people.
Rubio has also inveighed against earmarks in the federal budget, though he was responsible for about $250 million in hometown spending projects when he served in the state Legislature. The key difference between the federal and state budgets: The latter were always balanced.
Born in 1971 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants who left Cuba just before the 1959 revolution. The family later moved to Las Vegas, where Rubio's father worked as a bartender and his mother at the Imperial Palace casino.
In 1985, Rubio's family moved back to Miami, where he graduated from South Miami Senior High School four years later. He graduated from the University of Florida and then the University of Miami with a law degree. At age 27, he was elected to West Miami City Commission and then won his state House seat in 2000. Seven years later, he served as the first Cuban-American House speaker in Florida history.
Rubio's rise in the Legislature was aided both by his strong oratory as well as his friendship with former Gov. Jeb Bush, who gave Rubio what he called "the sword of Chang" at his designation ceremony to become speaker.
In Washington, Rubio quickly became a go-to Republican whom any of the Republican presidential candidates would love to have on their ticket. Rubio said he won't take the job.
The buzz around Rubio was so intense that Nancy Reagan wrote him a personal note and invited him to speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in August.
But despite being able to command the nation's microphone almost at will, Rubio still wants more. And his book is the key.
"I want to engage in public-policy issues at a level that you can't really do in an op-ed or in a television interviews," he said.