He has said --over and over and over again-- that he does not intend to be the GOP vice presidential nominee.
But, evidently, the disclaimer matters little to the public.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida once again has emerged in a national poll as the favorite to occupy the slot that is a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Beating out household names such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rubio was the top choice in a new poll that asked roughly 800 registered Republican and Independent voters across the country: “No matter who is the Republican nominee for president, if you could pick the vice presidential nominee, who would it be?”
After Rubio, respondents picked GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, then Christie, then Palin.
“Any time you place ahead of Sarah Palin, call yourself a winner,” said Peter Woolley, director of the the poll, which was conducted from Feb. 6-12 by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind. “Her name recognition and presence are formidable.”
The results, released Monday, come shortly after a straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference recently showed Rubio as an overwhelming favorite for the vice presidential slot. In the CPAC poll, Rubio was followed by Christie, and then Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
In the presidential straw poll, Mitt Romney was the top choice, followed by Santorum, former House Speaker Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Rubio has not yet endorsed any of the GOP presidential candidates; his endorsement would be a big get for any of the contenders.
His thoughts on the words and actions of the contenders have carried weight. He's a Tea Party favorite, a GOP star and, many say, the future of the Republican Party.
Rubio, 40, is one of Florida's most popular leaders, particularly among Republicans. A Quinnipiac University poll released Jan. 10 found that nearly 80 percent of Republicans and nearly half of independents approved of the job he is doing. Only a quarter of Democrats liked his job performance.
“It's pretty easy to see why Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is on every GOP presidential candidate's vice presidential shot list,” said an article in U.S. News & World Report. “The freshman, Cuban-American senator laid out a passionate, succinct, and unifying conservative agenda more effectively than any of those actually vying for the presidency have thus far, during remarks he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference.”
At CPAC, Rubio asked: "What is the conservative movement? It's pretty straightforward. We believe that the way prosperity is created is when people have the freedom and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”
Rubio has not hesitated to call out fellow Republicans when he feels they have erred.
He has taken exception to what he considers potentially self-destructive talk by Republicans about illegal immigration. He has urged the party to focus its rhetoric on legal immigration.
He assailed Gingrich for airing an ad in the Cuban-American senator’s home state calling Romney, considered the frontrunner in the GOP primary, “anti-immigrant.”
"This kind of language is more than just unfortunate,” Rubio was quoted as saying in The Miami Herald. “It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign.”
No sooner did the news of Rubio’s discomfiture hit the Web than the Gingrich campaign say that it planned to pull the radio ad out of “respect for the senator’s wishes.”
"We respect Senator Rubio tremendously and will remove the ad from the rotation," said Gingrich's Florida campaign leader, Jose Mallea, according to The Miami Herald.
Echoing the sentiment other presidential contenders in the GOP primary have expressed, Gingrich said during a debate before the Florida primary that Rubio was worthy of consideration for vice president.
Asked the next day to elaborate on his statement, Gingrich said in an interview with Fox News Latino: "I think that anybody who has any sense as a presidential candidate is going to recognize that Marco Rubio has to be on the short list."
"He is so talented, he is so competent, his background is so strong, he’s such a good speaker. . .he has an ability to reach out and help with the very rapidly growing Latino community across the whole country. . .Anyone who wouldn’t put him there I think is just not serious about how you win the presidency."
Follow Elizabeth Llorente on Twitter: @Liz_Llorente
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente