ABC News' Michael Falcone:
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called Mitt Romney's I-wish-I-were-Latino comment, which came to light in a leaked video tape this week, a "joke."
"I think he meant it as a joke," Rubio said on a conference call organized by the Republican National Committee, adding that's "how most reasonable people would take it."
Romney was shown on a hidden-camera video clip posted by Mother Jones magazine telling his audience at a May 17 fundraiser in Florida about his father's background.
"My dad, you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company," Romney said. "But he was born in Mexico, and had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. And, I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."
As it turns out, Romney made a similar reference - publicly - in January in an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos
Although Romney's week has been dominated by coverage of the leaked video, he has also been spending time courting Latino voters. The GOP nominee campaigns in Florida on Wednesday and Thursday, and his campaign has deployed Rubio in a new television ad airing in Florida focused on Medicare.
When asked whether the Romney-Ryan ticket was on the right course to win on Nov. 6, Rubio said: " I just feel confident about the message we're putting out there."
Rubio also said he sensed "increasing enthusiasm as we get closer to Election Day" and drew a contrast - the same one that Romney campaign officials are seeking to make this week - between what Rubio called the prevailing view of the state of the race inside "the political universe" vs. "out in the rest of the world."
In the "rest of the world," Rubio said, people are "increasingly realizing we can turn this thing around pretty quickly" if we "do a few simple but important things."
"That realization is going to turn into enthusiasm and that enthusiasm is going to turn into turnout that's going to help us get over the top."