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Three things you didn't know about Marco Rubio

From vice-presidential shortlister to auto-biographer, Marco Rubio is gaining the type of nationwide attention that most freshmen U.S. Senators only dream of.

Late last year, Rubio announced he inked a book deal with Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin, and now he has a title -- An American Son -- and a few tidbits released by his publisher. Here are three:

1) When his father was 18, he took part in an ill-fated military plot to overthrow Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.
2) When Marco was 8 years old and living in Las Vegas, the Rubio family attended a Mormon church for a few years. (More on that here)
3) To loosen things up on the day of debates, Rubio and his aides would watch clips from the movie "Spinal Tap" during debate prep.

"An American Son is confidential until publication, so we're not sharing too many details," Adrian Zackheim, Sentinel's president and publisher said in a written statement. "But I can tell you there's a lot that people don't know about Senator Rubio and his family and will find very interesting in the book."

Rubio, who has struggled with debt in the past, probably got an advance that will make him a rich man. Conservatives love him and his story. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan tapped him to speak at her husband's library in California last year.

Meantime, liberals are starting to trash the rising Republican star, in part over his conservative positions on immigration and entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Controversy like that can be bad on the campaign trail. But it can sell books.

The book itself is bound to become a political document. It's scheduled to be published this fall -- at the height of campaign season. Assuming he is chosen -- and he decides -- to run as vice president, the book sales have a good chance of taking off.

An autobiography also helps Rubio shape his political identity. That is, he has a chance to define himself on his own terms as he opponents try to paint him in a different light.

Last summer, Rubio sparred with his former employer, the Spanish-language network Univision, over his immigration positions and his refusal to appear on Univision's flagship talkshows, where the anchors espouse soft lines on immigration.

In one embarrassing case, Rubio's Senate website inaccurately said his parent's fled Fidel Castro's Cuba. Actually, they fled Fulgencio Batista's Cuba. A TV ad he ran during his 2010 senatorial campaign also suggested his parents fled Castro.

The discrepancy was first caught by a so-called "birther" -- someone who doesn't believe Barack Obama was born in the United States and is therefore president. The Tampa Bay Times first reported on the controversy, followed by the Washington Post, which misrepresented the depth of some of Rubio's misrepresentations. The Washington Post reporter is writing a biography of Rubio.

Meantime, liberal immigration groups and committees supporting the president have targeted Rubio, particularly out West where he's not as well known. Rubio has founded a political committee, Reclaim America, which raised a whopping $563,000 last quarter. He also spent more than $21,000 on a research firm to investigate himself.

"Due to his sudden rise and early lack of fundraising, Marco's campaign in 2008 didn't have the resources to do adequate research. Now press are digging into things like his family history and his student loans, while liberal Super PACs like American Bridge are doing oppo dumps. So of course we have to do our homework so we can the record straight," a Rubio aide told the Washington website BuzzFeed. "The fact that you have sources combing through our FEC report within hours of it being posted says all you need to say about why we are doing our own research."

Indeed, BuzzFeed noted, the $21,000 expenditure was spotted by American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group that has targeted Rubio and questioned whether he's really a member of Miami's Cuban exile community.