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Marco Rubio, the ambitious son of Cuban immigrants who reached the United States Senate before his fortieth birthday, has always acted old for his age.
From his days as a political director in Florida for former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in his mid-20s, to becoming the youngest speaker of the Florida House in the state's history, Rubio has constantly been underestimated because of his youth. In the forthcoming book, The Rise of Marco Rubio, Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia paints a picture of a man who has taken a calculated approach to his rise to power.
Although Rubio's Senate candidacy in 2010 was often described as emerging spontaneously from the tea party, his trajectory to national stardom was long in the making, involving years of toiling in local Florida politics and leading the state legislature. It did not appear, as popular conception once dictated, out of thin air.
"His rise had actually been as conventional as they come," Roig-Franzia writes in the book's opening pages. "[R]ubio had been running for--and winning--elections for most of his adult life. West Miami city commissioner, Florida state representative, Florida house speaker, U.S. senator. Step, by step, by step."
The book is full of painstakingly researched details about Rubio's family history--some of which calls Rubio's own personal stories into question--but it ultimately describes a lawmaker who has mastered the political game.
Here are ten details from the book, which will be mandatory reading if Mitt Romney taps Rubio as his running mate this summer:
1. Rubio played catch with Dan Marino and Tim Tebow on the floor of the Florida Statehouse
"You know if I drop this pass, my political career is over," he said before Marino tossed him the ball.
After he played with Tebow, an excited Rubio took to Twitter: "I am the only US Senate candidate to ever catch a pass from Tim Tebow!"
2. Jeb Bush gave Rubio a mystical sword called 'Chang' when he became Speaker of the Florida House in 2005
"[H]e was given a sword by Governor Jeb Bush, who took to the lectern and said, 'I can't think back on a time when I've ever been prouder to be a Republican, Marco.' The sword belonged to 'a great conservative warrior,' Bush told the audience to peals of laughter. The 'mystical warrior' was named 'Chang.' 'Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society …I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.'"
"…The Sword itself was nothing special, an inexpensive object bought off the Internet by aides in Bush's office. But it would hang in a place of honor in Rubio's office, a symbol of his deep bond with a son and brother of presidents."
3. Rubio's brother-in-law is the speedo-clad yoga instructor in the movie Couples Retreat
Carlos Ponce married Rubio's sister. He is also very flexible.
"In the forgettable 2009 film Couples Retreat, Ponce is the actor who steals one of the few funny scenes, portraying a buffed yoga instruct who makes the husbands jealous by performing sexually suggestive moves with their wives."
4. This is what Rubio sounds like when he's pumped
He sent the email below to his staff after watching this Senate campaign video for the first time.
Man, let me tell you guys something. I just ran this on my computer and three things happened. 1. I got chills. 2. My wife and children painted themselves up in blue face like Braveheart. 3. I went to the closet and got out my costume from Gladiator and I could hear the crowd chant: 'Maximus! Maximus!'
Let's go kill the emperor! I love it.
Do we need a small buy to push this out? Do I need to sell my car and take a second mortgage to pay for a bigger buy?
5. President Obama wrote about his drug dealer in his high school yearbook; Rubio wrote about his hair products
"One of the rituals of the senior year at many high schools around the country is the writing of senior wills. Outgoing students write a few lines, granting something they own to the younger students. In Marco's senior will he wrote, 'I, Marco Rubio, hereby bequeath my hairstyling secrets to Freddy.' Even as a high-schooler, Marco combed his hair neatly and conservatively."
6. Rubio's opponents in his first race for the Florida legislature tried to paint him as gay
"The race would give Rubio an up-close view of the political dark arts and the rough, no-holds-barred world he was diving into. During the race an attempt was made to discredit him by spreading rumors that he was gay. The rumor was not true, but it worried the young candidate. For a time he obsessed about it, frequently bring it up in strategy sessions, a person familiar with the campaign said. Finally a decision was made to douse the rumor by distributing a photo of Rubio with his attractive wife, who was pregnant at the time. The rumors went away."
7. Rubio immersed himself with Ayn Rand when he was first elected to the Florida legislature
"Rubio was more likely to read the sports page than weighty philosophical tomes. But by the time he finished his first legislative term, he had devoured Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged twice."
8. Rubio had to wear leg-braces as a kid, but went on to receive a college football scholarship
'"As a young child, I wore braces on my legs to correct a knee problem,' Rubio wrote in a moving open letter after the death of his father in 2010. 'I hated to wear them. So my dad would call from work and pretend to be Don Shula telling me I needed to wear them if I wanted to play for the Dolphins. (I always wondered why Shula had a Cuban accent on the phone but not on TV!)'"
9. Rubio loves sports, and once skipped a vote to watch the Marlins play in the World Series
"For all his political skills, he sometimes got the optics wrong. The same month that he secured the pledges necessary to win the speaker race he was caught up in an embarrassing episode during the Major League Baseball World Series. He and a few other Republican lawmakers skipped an important vote--touted by some as one of the most important in Florida history--to watch the hometown Marlins play a world Series game."
10. Rubio can free-style
On long car rides along the campaign trail in Florida, "Rubio liked to blast hip-hop on the stereo, Snoop Dogg and other edgy rappers. 'He can spit!' one young staffer marveled to a friend, invoking the slang term for singing rap lyrics. A love of music that could be profane and sometimes celebrated drug use and violence wasn't exactly what they expected from the up-and-coming voice of righteous conservatism. 'You know, I get in trouble when I talk about that a little bit, because maybe I shouldn't listen to that any more, but the music is good," Rubio would later say. '[You've] just got to sometimes ignore what their politics may be and just enjoy the music."