8. Marco Rubio
At only 39, Marco Rubio has made quite a name for himself as Senator-elect from Florida. After a campaign and race that caught much national attention and won him a national following, Rubio has been called “The Great Right Hope.” This son of Cuban exiles has truly become a phenomenon in conservative circles.
Rubio’s political career began in 2002, when he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, where he later become the youngest House Speaker in state history. In 2009, he began his Senate campaign, and he surprised many people when he came from behind popular governor Charlie Crist to win the Republican nomination. In the general election he handily fended off Democrat Kendrick Meek and Crist, this time running as an independent and showing more left-leaning tendencies, to win.
Rubio has a history of being a formidable advocate of smaller government. In the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio helped overhaul Florida’s tax system, and he has promoted policies on the campaign trail that would serve to limit the size and scope of government. He has shown himself to be a different kind of politician, shunning personal attacks and promoting a positive brand of conservatism:
He argues that the Republican Party needs to offer up clear alternatives to liberal policy, not just say no, and brighten its tone along the way. Take immigration. “Where Republicans have failed: We should be the pro-legal immigration party, not the anti- illegal immigration party,” he says.
He has been called the “Cuban Barack Obama” for his ability to articulate issues in a way that resonates with people. Bright, articulate, and upbeat, he has also been called “Reagan-esque.” Some have said that he is exceptional in his ability to inspire hope in his audiences. As another prominent Floridian noted:
“He’s the only guy I know on the scene today who makes grown men cry,” says Jeb Bush.
Mr. Rubio is a political protégé of the former Republican governor. They share a preference for (in Mr. Bush’s words) “hopeful aspirationalism” to broaden the party’s appeal. He adds, laughing, that the younger man is a “much better speaker than I am.”
Given his credentials so far and his apparent gift for communication and policy, it’s no stretch to imagine him gunning for the office held by Reagan and Obama.