Fla.'s Marco Rubio: Potential Political Superstar?

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- America's budget problem has been a hot issue on the campaign trail. That's also been true for the Florida U.S. Senate race, which has captured national attention like few others.

It all started with a Tea Party takeover from Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio, which has led to an unusual three-man race with now independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek.

The one thing that makes the Florida Senate race exciting for conservatives is that they believe Rubio has the drive, brains and charisma to be a political superstar.

As a former Florida House speaker, Rubio brings street credibility to those Republicans who like a leader with experience.

Rubio also played a spoiler role by performing so strongly in the primary season that he forced sitting Gov. Crist to quit the Republican Party and run as an independent.

That event was a bombshell for a one time GOP power player who dreamed of playing on a national level.

"In 2008 he wanted to be on the McCain ticket so bad, everybody in Florida could taste it," said Larry Thornberry, contributor for American Spectator.

Then Crist flipped on several major issues trying to broaden his appeal to Democrats and independents. Instead, he's alienated many Floridians.

One about-face also infuriated the pro-life community.

"Governor Crist vetoed our ultrasound bill that could have significantly reduced abortions by giving women the option of just viewing the ultrasound of their babies, so they can see it's not a duck, it's not a buick; it's a little baby," said John Stemberger of the Family Policy Council.

Crist's fight for survival doesn't sit well with many Democrats who wanted Meek to go one-on-one with the staunchly conservative Rubio.

Environmentalist Mary Bass likes him, because Rubio's so green regarding environmental issues.

"If you don't take care of the environment, nothing else matters, because we'll all be dead," Bass said.

Though 58 percent of Floridians disapprove of President Barack Obama, many Democrats attending the St. Petersburg rally on Wednesday want Meek, because he is an Obama-backer.

"Obama cannot do things all by himself," said Valeeta Gibson, who attended the rally. "He has to have help and support. The Republicans have not supported him from day one."

Florida's unemployment rate stands at 11.7 percent. An average of 75 homes receive a foreclosure notice everyday. Those dark clouds hanging over the Sunshine State could be a good sign for the kind of radical change represented by Rubio.

"He has caught the anger and the frustration and the fear the biggest portion of florida voters have," Thornberry said.

This Senate race is anything but ordinary, with two national figures involved -- Rubio and Crist. Also, with unemployment in Florida more than 11 percent and the housing market in the tank, Floridians are upset, involved and ready to go to the polls.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.