When he takes the convention stage Thursday night, Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the GOP's rising Latino stars, will not only introduce Mitt Romney on the evening he formally accepts his party's nomination but offer a glimpse of where the Republican Party is heading.
Rubio, 41, is part of the new wave of young, diverse Republicans who are on display at this year's convention. The Florida junior senator, who is considered one of the GOP's most electrifying speakers, is expected to add to the chorus of testimony touting Romney's personal and leadership qualities as the GOP works to woo undecided voters, including women and Latinos.
Rubio, whose family immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1950s, experienced a meteoric rise within the GOP ranks during the swell of the Tea Party movement in 2010, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, a seat he's held for less than two years. Many believe Rubio's calls for rising above petty politics, and his growing popularity among the GOP faithful, coupled with his youth and Latin roots signal a potential presidential bid of his own down the line.
Rubio is part attack dog, part party uniter, all while touting his Cuban descent and family's story of achieving the American dream. Romney has even taken to incorporating Rubio's American dream narrative into his stump speeches.
"[Rubio] said something that will stay with me a long time," Romney said at a June Rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "He said when I was a boy living poor in this country with my family, we saw some other homes, great big homes and fancy cars. He said, 'I never heard my parents say why can't we have what they have. Instead my parents said aren't we lucky to live in a country where with education and hard work, there's a shot we have of earning that ourselves.' That's the nature of America. We're the land of opportunity."
Romney and Rubio's relationship dates back to 2010, when Romney endorsed Rubio in his Senate bid a few weeks before Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, announced he'd run as an independent. Before he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney said his team had been vetting Rubio as a potential VP pick.
Rubio, who campaigned with Romney in Florida and Pennsylvania this election cycle, will speak about how the former Massachusetts governor acts a "role model" for young people in this country.
"Mitt Romney, who has lived his life in a way that's not just admirable but really a role model, irrespective of how people may feel about his policies. They may disagree with him on policies, but you look at the way he's lived his life as a husband, as a father, as a member of his community, really a role model for younger Americans and what we should all aspire for our kids to be," Rubio told ABC's George Stephanopoulos Wednesday.
"And then, also, the choice that America has between two very different views of government's role in our economy. That's really what this election is about. It's not just a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, it's a choice between two very different futures. I hope I can do that for him."
Rubio has called President Obama the most "divisive figure in modern American history."
Who Is Marco Rubio?
The son of Cuban immigrants, Marco Rubio was born in Miami in 1971. His family immigrated to the United States in 1956. The exact year was uncovered by a Washington Post reporter, who found that the year Rubio had claimed his family had fled Cuba --1959 -- which would have placed them among the nearly 1 million Cuban political exiles who escaped the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, was false. Rubio himself traveled to Cuba for the first time in May, touring Guantanamo Bay and meeting with the commanders.
When Rubio was 8 years old, his father, a bartender, and his mother, a housekeeper, moved their family to Las Vegas, where all family members except the father converted to Mormonism for a brief time before returning to the Catholic Church at young Rubio's urging. The Rubio family returned to Miami in 1985.
Rubio attended Tarkio Community College in Missouri on a football scholarship for one year but transferred to Santa Fe Community College and graduated in 1993 from the University of Florida. He then attended law school at the University of Miami and graduated in 1996. In many of his speeches, Rubio often mentions how he still pays student loans he acquired during his college years.
In 1997, Rubio married Jeanette Dousdebes, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader who is of Colombian descent. They have four children – two daughters and two sons.
Rubio's first venture into politics came when he interned for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., while in law school. He jumped into his first race in 1998, when he was elected to the city commission in West Miami. Soon after, in 2000, Rubio was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Rising in the leadership ranks, Rubio served as speaker of the House from 2006 to 2008, when he left the state legislature.
In 2009, Rubio announced a long shot bid for an open Florida U.S. Senate seat, vying for the Republican nomination against Charlie Crist. With the backing of the Tea Party, Rubio won the election with 48.9 percent of the vote.
Rubio, who is anti-abortion, serves on a number of Senate committees, including Foreign Relations; Intelligence; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He has devoted much time to developing an alternative to the Dream Act, but his plans got derailed after Obama announced an immigration policy that would allow thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain and work here without fear of deportation.
Rubio's speedy ascent in Republican politics has not been without controversy. While serving as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio was accused of using the state Republican Party's credit card to pay for personal expenses. In a Fox News interview in May, Rubio emphasized that he did not bill personal expenses to the state party but instead paid the bill himself, although he admitted the way he handled the issue was a "mistake."
"I shouldn't have done it that way. It was a lesson learned," Rubio told Fox. "It was a mistake. If I had to do it over again, I'd do it very differently."
In June, Rubio released his autobiography, "An American Son," which climbed to No. 4 on the New York Times' Best Seller Hard Cover Nonfiction List.
Rubio resides in West Miami with his wife and four children.