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Marco Rubio hasn't endorsed a successor, but...

@PatriciaMazzei   

Marco Rubio didn't quite pick a candidate to succeed him to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate. But he came close Sunday, giving a shout-out to one of the contenders who also happens to be a close friend.

"I want to introduce you to a really good friend of mine, and someone who could very well be -- with your cooperation -- he can be the next senator from Florida, taking the position that I leave because I'm going to be president," Rubio told a couple hundred people assembled for his rally at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami. "His name is Carlos Lopez-Cantera."

Lopez-Cantera, the state's lieutenant governor, received hearty applause.

"I am so proud that Carlos is here," Rubio said. "I'm so proud that he's done it. I'm so proud of [what] he's going to do."

Lopez-Cantera didn't have a speaking role at Rubio's rally, which was billed around Rick Harrison of the Pawn Stars reality TV show. Harrison's a celebrity Rubio backer. A subsequent private fundraiser listed trumpeter Arturo Sandoval as a special guest; the earlier rally -- originally planned as a low-dollar fundraiser but ultimately opened to everyone, with a contribution suggested but not required -- also featured live music from a Latin-pop Miami band, Periko y Jessi Leon.

Still, it was a big moment for Lopez-Cantera, who faces several Republican rivals that, this early in the race, have in some cases outraised or out-polled him. The Senate primary isn't until August; Rubio can't run for the Senate and the presidency at the same time and has said he won't seek reelection even if he drops out of the presidential race. His backing in the race could be key in a crowded field.

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