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DeMint breaks with GOP brass and backs Rubio

Crossing Republican leaders, U.S. Sen. James DeMint of South Carolina is the first sitting senator to endorse former House Speaker Marco Rubio over Gov. Charlie Crist for the Senate.

While few Florida voters have even heard of DeMint, the endorsement is intended to send a signal to  conservative leaders and donors nationwide that Rubio is a serious contender against the popular Crist.

"He is exactly the kind of Senator Florida needs, and exactly the kind of leader our party is looking for: a conservative's conservative with a record of success in a swing state, a self-made first generation American, a dynamic Republican spokesman in two languages, a young husband and father himself dealing with the same problems middle class families like his face every day,'' DeMint writes in today's FOX News Forum.

Rubio hopes to milk this endorsement for all its worth, with a press conference in Washington today and a phone call with bloggers. Perhaps the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House will be asked about DeMint's hardline stance on immigration; the senator favors forcing illegal workers to return to their home countries and making English the official language of the United States.

Read what DeMint has to say here.