RALEIGH — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio does not fit traditional political molds. He is a tea party Republican who relaxes with rap music. He is the son of a Cuban-American bartender, and Time magazine recently named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Rubio believes the story of his rise, and that of his family, is “an ode to the American dream.” That is one reason he wrote a memoir, “An American Son,” which he will be signing at 7:30 Friday night at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh.
Another possible reason for the book – and the high attention his book tour is garnering – is that Rubio is frequently mentioned as likely being on the short list of vice presidential possibilities of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
He is one of a series of potential Romney running mates who have come through North Carolina using the swing state as sort of a try-out. The list includes former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Rubio declined to discuss his vice presidential prospects, sticking to a vow he took this spring.
“I’ve made a decision a couple of months ago not to talk about it any more out of respect for Gov. Romney and the process he is conducting,” Rubio said. “I can tell you one thing for sure and that is he is going to make a great choice whoever he picks. He’s always made great choices.”
Working against 41-year old Rubio’s selection is that he has only been in the Senate for two years, although he served nine years in the Florida legislature and a term as state House Speaker, where he was a key ally of Gov. Jeb Bush.
In his favor, Rubio is from a swing state and is a young attractive Latino politician. He is also a favorite of many party conservatives, who have embraced him since he defeated Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican in 2010 to win the Senate seat.
He readily identifies with the tea party movement, which he says transcends party lines.
“It’s everyday people from all walks of life, from all political parties, many independent, who are upset with the direction our country is headed,” Rubio said. “They think our leaders have failed us and want people to go to Washington to stand up and fight for change and a new direction.”
He is strongly opposed to the health care law upheld last week by U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are now stuck with a really bad idea,” Rubio said. “It is a middle class tax increase.”
His views on immigration are nuanced. His parents viewed themselves as exiles. They left Cuba while Castro was planning his revolution and were not permitted to return when he came to power.
He opposes the Dream Act, backed by the Obama administration, which would permit children of illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they have good moral character, complete high school, or serve two years in the military or complete two years in college. He said the law is too broad.
But he has also been critical of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and has written that he doubts critics would describe the illegal immigrants in the same away if they were from Canada.
“I think it is a complicated issue,” Rubio said. “... “You have to remember there are millions of people out there now who are waiting to come here legally. Our message to them can not be, ‘Come here illegally because it’s cheaper and quicker.’ ”
“On the other hand,” he added, “we are dealing with real human beings here who are undocumented. They are doing what most of us would do if we found ourselves in predicament where our children were hungry and our families were desperate. We have to confront the issue with that in mind.”
Most of his book is personal, talking about his grandfather and his parents, and their life in Cuba and their decision to immigrate to the United States. It is perhaps Rubio’s version of President Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father.”
“It is a story of my parents and my grandfather,’’ he said. “To them the American dream meant they would not be able to accomplish all the dreams of their youth, but they worked hard so their children and their grandson would have a chance to do all the things they couldn’t.”