Born in Miami, Marco Antonio Rubio was raised in a Roman Catholic household by Cuban immigrants who had fled to the US and were naturalized in 1975. After attending South Miami Senior High School, Rubio received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and a law degree from the University of Miami. His political career began while still in college, as he both interned for U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and worked for Senator Bob Dole’s ultimately unsuccessful political campaign. Two years after graduating law school, he was elected to his first public office as the City Commissioner for West Miami.
Rubio’s first race for state office was his closest to date. After winning a primary run-off by only 64 votes, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in a special election on Jan. 25, 2000. Rising quickly to majority whip, Rubio made a name for himself as a leader who focused on persuasion rather than coercion. With his election to House Speaker in 2005, he became the first Cuban-American to hold the position. Perhaps his most unique idea as Speaker was his book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future. Rubio provided each member of the Florida House with a blank book, and asked them all to fill it in. He later published it, and 34 of the ideas were at least partially enacted.
On May 5, 2009, Rubio announced his candidacy for an open United States Senate seat in Florida. After winning a particularly contentious primary against incumbent Governor Charlie Crist, with whom he had often clashed, and facing an independent candidacy from Crist in the general, Rubio won the seat with 49 percent of the vote to Crist’s 30 percent. A favorite of the Tea Party, Rubio quickly gained a reputation as one of the most conservative voices in the Senate. However, his involvement in the bipartisan Gang of Eight, who drafted the comprehensive immigration reform bill, lost him some support from the far right.
Rubio announced he would run for president on April 13, 2015 after months of speculation due to his contact with top donors. His campaign, like many of his Republican opponents, has focused on national and border security, gun rights, and a reformed tax code. Additionally, in a recent ad, he has highlighted his strong Christian faith. While he has been continuously criticized on the campaign trail for his lack of attendance for Senate votes and his shifting view on immigration, Rubio’s strengths are widely recognized as his youthful energy and appeal to the younger wing of the party. He began the race as one of the lowest candidates in national polls, but has risen to third behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as his numbers continue to surge after debates, in which he is generally successful.