Rubio: Republicans’ new ‘superman’

The 2012 Republican presidential primary race is heating up, and already one potential vice presidential candidate is getting a lot of airtime: Senator Marco Rubio.

Rubio is a Cuban-American, freshman senator from Florida who has made waves since he gave his maiden speech on the Senate floor on June 14.

“Becoming a world power was never America’s plan, but that is exactly what the American economic miracle made her,” Rubio said in his speech.

Luis Rumbaut of the Cuban American Education Foundation said Rubio rose in part because of his support of the US embargo against Cuba, and quickly made the leap from the Florida state legislature to US Senate.

“He rises in part because of his stand on Cuba. In Miami, in order to be elected dogcatcher, you have to have a policy against Fidel. And so Rubio not unexpectedly rises like foam in politics of Florida,” Rumbaut said.  

In his campaign ads and in his maiden speech, Rubio has evoked his parents’ struggle as working class Cuban immigrants.

“Whether they came here on the Mayflower, a slave ship or a plane from Havana, we are all the descendents of the men and women who built here the nation that saved the world,” Rubio told his fellow senators June 14.

But despite his campaign ads in Spanish and his own immigrant background, Rubio opposes comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act and supports English-only laws.

“It’s been said that if Marco Rubio is the Republican party’s superman, immigration is his kryptonite,” said Frank Sharry, executive director and founder of America’s Voice. “The fact is when he ran for senator he was able to advertise in Spanish saying, ‘I’m an immigrant too,’ and it garnered a fair amount of support.”

Rubio also supports hallmarks of the neoconservative movement—lean social welfare programs, a strong military and an expansive US role abroad. He joined senior foreign policy hawks Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) for a press conference on Syria.

“Tyrants have always spoke out against America, but our only interest in Syria is that the Syrian people have the same rights we have,” Rubio said on May 11.

Rubio’s vision has been embraced by tea partiers and neoconservatives alike. Tea Party favorite and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin famously told Rubio to “call her.”

But Rumbaut said he remains skeptical about the feasibility of Rubio’s plan to shrink the deficit and maintain a large military and foreign aid presence abroad.

“The glories of a fictitious America when everybody was happy and no genocide of the Indians, no slavery, just the founding fathers and the stars. That's the world in which Rubio lives. But does that sell? Heck yes!” said Rumbaut.