Sen. Marco Rubio has his eye on the Oval Office.
He announced his bid for the Republican presidential race in April at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. The Freedom Tower was a symbolic (and strategic) choice: He appealed to the Cuban-American stronghold in Miami.
Rubio, a South Florida political wunderkind, was elected Florida’s youngest-ever state House speaker in 2006 at 35 years old. He was then elected senator in 2010.
Since then, he has been under a microscope for his finances, his stance on immigration and his passion for 1990's hip-hop.
Here are the 10 things you should know about Rubio.
1. Florida-bred, Gator and 'Cane
Before politics, Rubio was a lawyer who graduated from the University of Miami School of Law. He first attended Tarkio College in Missouri on a football scholarship for a year. He later transferred to Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida and finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida in 1993. He started his political career when he was elected to the West Miami City Commission in 1998.
2. Domestic policy: He's not a scientist
Climate change: Like most Republicans, he has used the phrase “I’m not a scientist” when asked whether human activity causes global warming.
Social issues: In 2013, Rubio co-sponsored a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks from fertilization but made exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest. He says decisions about same-sex marriage should be left to states.
Economy: Rubio aims to balance the federal budget within 10 years and has proposed raising defense spending.
3. He takes … long pauses
The senator gave the GOP response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address. This put him on the national spotlight but not for the right reasons. In the middle of the live broadcast, Rubio took a sip of water.
4. Immigration: He's mellowed out
Bloomberg Politics reported that Rubio’s 2013 immigration reform proposal amped up border control and provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. When the House rejected the bill, he shifted toward more gradual reform – one that is “piece by piece” rather than comprehensive.
The senator still favors a path to citizenship once immigrants pay fines and taxes and remain on work permits for at least 10 years.
5. Foreign policy: "Neoconservative"
In early May, Rubio first outlined his foreign policy platform in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Daniel W. Drezner at the Washington Post wrote that Rubio’s speech was as “neoconservative as a foreign speech could get.” The senator “bashed” Iran, China and terrorism.
The speech was organized into three pillars: “American Strength," the power of the protection of the American economy in a globalized world and moral clarity regarding America’s core values. Rubio elaborates that America’s history is “motivated by a desire to expand freedom rather than its own territory.”
And not surprisingly considering his personal connection to the exile community, Rubio opposes the Obama administration’s outreach to Cuba.
6. Branding: He's an American son with American dreams
Like other high-profile politicians, Rubio learned to market himself early in his career. In 2012, he published "An American Son: A Memoir,” which is about the experience of growing up with his Cuban family. He recently published another book titled “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.” This one is more focused on policy.
7. He's a hip-hop aficionado
In Ernest Hemingway’s classic “The Sun Also Rises,” the writer describes what it means for bullfighters to have afición, which is Spanish for passion. Rubio has his own afición for 1990's hip-hop but could not name his favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He would’ve been forgiven by hip-hop heads had he not said he is a big fan of a 1990's hip-hop channel.
8. Money problems
Rubio has 99 money problems, but a boat ain’t one. The New York Times reported that Rubio purchased an $80,000 “luxury speedboat," but it's actually just a 24-foot dinghy.
9. Kennedy connection
Rubio is taking a page from the John F. Kennedy handbook. At a rally in Iowa, the senator’s declaration of a “New American Century” seems similar to Kennedy’s “New Frontier” tagline. Kennedy landed us on the moon. Maybe with Rubio we could populate it.
10. His wife was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader
Rubio's wife, Jeanette Rubio, was a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins. She was part of the squad for a season in 1997. Since then, she's been busy raising their four kids, consulting a philanthropic foundation and fighting against human trafficking.