Marco Rubio is pretty much in the race now

It would seem that Marco Rubio is tired of watching Mitt and Jeb soak up all the media attention, not to mention the big bundlers, fundraisers and assorted top staffers one needs to launch a successful presidential bid. ABC is reporting that the Florida senator has lined up his soldiers and told them to get ready to storm the gates of Mordor.

Sen. Marco Rubio has begun taking concrete steps toward launching a presidential bid, asking his top advisors to prepare for a campaign, signing on a leading Republican fundraiser, and planning extensive travel to early-voting states in the coming weeks, ABC News has learned.

“He has told us to proceed as if he is running for president,” a senior Rubio advisor tells ABC News…

Leading the effort to raise the $50 million or more he’ll need to run in the Republican primaries will be Anna Rogers, currently the finance director for American Crossroads, the conservative group started by Karl Rove that raised more than $200 million to help elect Republicans over the past two elections.

Rogers will begin working at Rubio’s political action committee on February 1 and would become the finance director of Rubio’s presidential campaign.

I’ll confess to being a least a little surprised by this. The longer Rubio waited, the more I thought he might just decide to give this a pass. He’ll be all of 45 years old when the next president is sworn in, and even if it’s a Republican who serves two terms, he’ll still be in his early fifties for the 2024 election. He would have plenty of time to season himself and let the current crop of heavy hitters beat each other up.

More confusing to me is exactly what “role” (for lack of a better word) Rubio sees for himself in this emerging field. His days of being the Tea Party, Washington outsider candidate seem to be in the past, and too many serious conservative voices have seen the bloom fade from his rose after he staked out various positions such as his plans for immigration reform. (His rather isolationist stints on foreign policy questions haven’t helped him with the base either.) Further, that “outsider” space is pretty well filled by either Ted Cruz for the social conservatives or Rand Paul for the more small “L” libertarian inclined primary voters. As for leaving the Tea Party behind and graduating to the Establishment wing, he’s staring straight down the barrel of Jeb, Mitt and (decreasingly) Chris Christie. What vacuum in the conservative political spectrum does Rubio fill today?

Waiting a while longer would also shine up his resume. He’s going to be running as a first term Senator, and what happened last time we went that route? (That’s a question that Cruz had better be ready to answer too, by the way.) Barack Obama may be a Democrat from the polar opposite end of the ideological scale, but his example is going to provide at least some primary voters with yet another excuse to look to the governors for the next aspiring president. When I add all of these factors up, I really thought Rubio might bide his time and stay in the Senate for a while, or possibly even run for Governor. Of course, politics is often unpredictable. If Rubio can somehow come up with the $50M nut he’ll need to make it through to next January, he may just surprise us.