By Jim DeMint
U.S. Senator Representing South Carolina

Once there was a poor farmer who wanted to become fabulously rich in the diamond trade. He deserted his farmland and traveled the world looking for diamonds until he was too old to look anymore. He returned home penniless, only to discover that the fields around his home were thick with flawless diamonds as big as your fist.

The poor guy's fortune had been right under his nose, but he had wasted his whole life looking everywhere but in his own backyard.

That old story came back to me a few weeks ago when I met Marco Rubio. He's the 38-year old former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez next year. Rubio is the most impressive conservative leader I have met in a long time, a natural leader with an inspiring personal story and an even more inspiring vision for Florida and America.

He is at once a principled conservative and an accomplished legislator with a proven record of building broad coalitions to champion fiscal discipline, economic growth, and the American values of family, faith, and freedom.

For months now, Republicans have been looking around, asking everyone they meet who our next leaders will be. And somehow, inexplicably, many of us have grown blind to the diamonds all around us. There are already many young, conservative leaders ready to fight for freedom in Washington and in state capitals all around the country. But we'll never find them if we only look for well-known politicians or choose our party's direction based on the latest polls instead of timeless principles.

Rubio is the son of Cuban exiles, who fled to the United States in the late 1950s without a dollar in their pocket. He tells inspiring stories about the neighborhoods where he grew up, and how America empowered his family to make a life for themselves. Rubio did rise: to college and law school, to the City Commission in West Miami to the legislature, all the way to the speaker's chair. From each of these positions, Rubio has championed a positive, principled, conservative agenda as the best way to create jobs and opportunities. He is living the American Dream, and understands how much he owes to our Founders and their principles of personal liberty and limited government. He wants to serve because he wants to protect those principles - when Marco Rubio swears an oath to our constitution, he's one of those politicians who will actually mean it.

Everywhere he has gone, Rubio has stood up to liberal ideas and interest groups, and stood up for freedom. He has taken on daunting issues - from a statewide education curriculum to energy reform - and succeeded in persuading independents and Democrats that his ideas - innovative, conservative solutions - make for the best answers to our biggest challenges.

He is exactly the kind of Senator Florida needs, and exactly the kind of leader our party is looking for: a conservative's conservative with a record of success in a swing state, a self-made first generation American, a dynamic Republican spokesman in two languages, a young husband and father himself dealing with the same problems middle class families like his face every day.

There is no question Marco Rubio will be a big part of the Republican Party's future, but I believe if we are to defeat the forces of Big Government now controlling Washington, Marco Rubio needs to be a big part of the Republican Party's present. He has the skills and ideas we need to rebuild our party, reform our government, and renew our nation.

That's why Marco Rubio will have my full support in his upcoming election.

Senator DeMint represents South Carolina in the U.S. Senate and is chairman of the Senate Steering Committee.