Senator Rubio, in short, has already been vetted, with the brutal, three-way battle for his Florida Senate seat drawing intense scrutiny from national as well as local reporters, resulting in microscopic examination of a series of potential scandals. Yes, the Rubios compiled an imperfect record in their handling of money, with unpaid student loans, a shared second home that barely escaped foreclosure, and inappropriate (and now fully repaid) charges on a Republican Party credit card during his service as state House speaker. None of these foibles gained traction during his Senate campaign, and he explains them in some detail in his endearing new bestseller, An American Son. In fact, he comes across as a more sympathetic everyman as a result of his past struggles: no one could claim that Senator Rubio, whose mother worked as a maid and whose father toiled as a bartender, counted as out-of-touch with the challenges of ordinary citizens.
And as to the senator’s historic status as the first Latino on a national ticket, the press would no doubt make much of that distinction for weeks after his selection, but no one should expect an instantaneous edge with Hispanic voters. The real importance of Rubio’s background as a 41-year-old son of Cuban immigrants amounts to a decisive alteration in the GOP image at the very moment that Democrats seek to characterize the opposition party as an exclusive club of rich old white guys. As much as his Spanish fluency and his inspiring up-from-the-bottom personal narrative, Rubio’s age would give Democrats fits. He’s a full decade younger than Obama, and 29 years younger than Joe Biden; in fact, Biden won election to the U.S. Senate when Marco Rubio was only one year old.