They can’t pinpoint the moment, exactly, when they knew Marco Rubio would run for president. Maybe when he became one of Mitt Romney’s most popular ambassadors during the 2012 campaign. Maybe after his improbable 2010 U.S. Senate election when he drew comparisons to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Maybe the emotional day in 2008 when he bid farewell as the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
No matter. The people who grew up with Rubio in South Florida’s bare-knuckled politics, who believed in his ambitious rise, who helped shield him from ever getting so bruised that a national candidacy would be impossible, say it was only a question of when the Republican son of Cuban immigrants would aim for the White House.
“The first day I met him, I knew big things were waiting for him,” said Rebeca Sosa, the Miami-Dade County commissioner and former West Miami mayor who took Rubio under her wing in his first race, for city commission in 1998. “Not president, right then, but big things.”
Former state Rep. Ralph Arza said he told Rubio in the Florida Capitol in 2003 or 2004 that he had a “premonition” Rubio would someday seek the presidency. Visiting his old friend in the U.S. Capitol about a year ago, Arza said Rubio asked him about his old hunch.
“Do I win?” Rubio asked.
Rubio, a 43-year-old married father of four, is poised to kick off his 2016 Republican presidential campaign at 5:30 p.m. Monday at downtown Miami’s Freedom Tower, the Ellis Island for Cuban exiles.