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Rubio tells audience he'd like to stay in public service

House Speaker Marco Rubio made his first foray into the often-raucous Capital Tiger Bay Club Thursday, a Tallahassee forum for political junkies, and unleashed an energetic version of his tried and true political speech. The crowd was rapt, gave him hearty applause, and prompted one commentator to commend him for an "excellent civics lesson."

Rubio came prepared with the expected line-up of self-deprecating jokes. He called the Florida House an economic engine for Tallahassee: "If you read the newspapers, you see we pay well.'' He joked about the gift ban and said, "It's good to have a free lunch. It's been a long time." And he noted that government must change like the times: "If you walked up to someone 10 years ago and said, 'I just Googled you,' they would slap you.''

Rubio was asked what he might be running for next and he said: "I don't really have anything in mind, but I do love public service and I have a lot of fun." He explained that, "like being a college football coach who wants to be in the NFL,'' he can't announce on his first day on the job that he wants to go to the NFL. "The best thing I could do, is to do the best job that I can as speaker and,if I do that, I believe I'll have opportunities."

The speaker also reminded his audience that leadership is not a popularity contest: "Name one leader who was universally popular in their time -- you won't find any,'' he said. He underscored why Florida should have an early primary: "If you're talking about Florida, you're talking about America...The questions we ask, no one else will ask.''

He said Gov. Charlie Crist was more in touch with people than any leader he has ever seen. He called Senate President Ken Pruitt the best policymaker in Tallahassee. And he called Democratic leaders, Dan Gelber in the House and Steve Geller in the Senate "responsible policymakers and not bomb-throwers.''