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Celebration, guarded optimism at Miami-Dade GOP's Lincoln Day dinner

The crowd was pleased but not rowdy at the Miami-Dade Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day fundraiser Saturday night, an event where the grassroots celebrated their sweeping victory in November and geared up for the long, 2012 election season to come.

The dinner was a homecoming of sorts for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the keynote speaker who received a rock star's welcome, despite his concerted effort to keep a low-profile, nose-to-the-grindstone approach to his work in Washington. State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez introduced Rubio as "the reason we’re all here — I don’t think anyone’s fooling themselves — Marco Rubio!"

It also marked a change of guard at the Miami-Dade GOP, now under the helm of state Rep. Erik Fresen after two wildly successful years being headed by U.S. David Rivera, who is under investigation over his personal amd campaign finances.

Rivera, too, received a warm welcome from the home crowd. But the real star of the night -- no surprise here -- was former President Ronald Reagan. A video tribute to Reagan played during dinner and received spontaneous applause at, "Mr. Gorbachev, take down this wall!"

On a more serious note, Miami-Dade GOP Finance Chairman Stanley Tate warned the crowd not to underestimate President Barack Obama in next year's presidential election.

And if anyone wondered who the establishment plans to support in the field of Republicans running for Miami-Dade County mayor: Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina was the one who got a speaking part in the program.