Meet the inner circle
Marco Rubio has one of the sharpest political minds in Washington and is hardly the sort of rookie who relies on handlers to guide him. Nonetheless, he has some of the savviest political operatives in the country on his Senate staff and political action committee helping advise him. Here are key members of the inner circle:
An architect of George W. Bush's critical South Carolina primary win in 2000, Thompson is Rubio's big-picture strategist. Thompson is a trusted voice who helps shape Rubio's longer-term trajectory. A former business partner with Terry Sullivan, he now works at Something Else Strategies along with wife Malorie Thompson and Todd Harris.
Another veteran South Carolina GOP operative, Sullivan earlier this year shifted to running Rubio's Reclaim America PAC full time after serving as the senator's deputy chief of staff. A longtime adviser to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Sullivan headed Mitt Romney's South Carolina presidential campaign in 2008, and like several other members of Rubio's brain trust, worked on the unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial campaign of former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
A former communications adviser to everyone from Jeb Bush to John McCain to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harris focuses on overall communications and messaging strategy for Rubio. He understands the ever-changing media as well as anyone, and he has excellent contacts across the media spectrum.
Formerly Malorie Miller, before her marriage to Heath Thompson, she is a nuts-and-bolts strategist especially adept at Internet politicking — organizing, motivating, fundraising and everything else.
Rubio's well-regarded chief of staff is known for his policy chops. He advised Dick Cheney in the White House and has had stints with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Sen. Spence Abraham and Wisconsin Sen. Bob Kasten. He worked on Romney's 2008 campaign and Rubio's 2010 Senate campaign.
The 33-year-old is a veteran political operative who recently joined Rubio's Senate staff as deputy chief of staff. Past clients include the Bush-Cheney Florida campaign, the Tom Gallagher gubernatorial campaign and the Florida House speaker's office. He has a footprint in both Washington and Florida and knows Rubio's early career better than any other member of the team.
A leading Republican fundraiser, she joined Rubio's PAC last year as finance director, after previously serving as finance director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She has also worked on Bush-Cheney and the 2008 Fred Thompson presidential campaign (along with Harris), and American Solutions for Winning the Future, a political committee affiliated with Newt Gingrich.
Alex Burgos and Alex Conant
These are the point men managing the vast media interest in Rubio. Communications director Burgos, top at left, who often handles Spanish language media, is an alum of Rubio's Senate campaign, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the presidential campaigns of Romney and McCain. Press secretary Conant is another respected flak with stints with the Republican National Committee and the Tim Pawlenty presidential campaign. Both are relentless in challenging media mentions they don't like.