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GERALDO RIVERA: Are Newly Elected Latino Republicans "LINOs" -- Latinos In Name Only?

On a recent edition of "At-Large," Al Sharpton, (a chronically under-rated civil rights leader and old friend), and I pondered an interesting question: should people who consider themselves progressive applaud the election of minorities who are conservatives? It came up when Reverend Al and I were talking about the sweeping victories in the midterm elections of Hispanic Republicans, most prominently Florida’s Senator-elect Marco Rubio.

Right now, the 39-year old Cuban-American is the Latino golden boy; he’s standing astride the big stage after first driving Florida’s popular governor Charlie Crist from the GOP before the Senate primary, and then crushing Charlie and the affable, but ineffective Democrat, Miami-area congressman Kendrick Meek in the general election.

Aside from his early and powerful Tea Party support, Marco Rubio’s victory is not unprecedented in the Sunshine State. He is replacing another Cuban American, Senator Mel Martínez who was also reliably conservative, consistently anti-Castro, and who retired a year ago.

But unlike stern Senator Martínez, who had an accountant’s charisma, Rubio has the fire of a ready-for-prime-time telenovela star. Articulate, sharp and battle-tested by the bitter, bruising, high profile election process, Rubio is America's first Latino to have a realistic near-term shot at national office. He is a quality politician who out-classed, out-charmed, out-cooled and out-prepared his rivals, while keeping a largely hostile national press corps on its heels. Most fair-minded observers will soon grasp that he is an attractive candidate for the GOP nomination as vice president, maybe as soon as 2012.

Geraldo Rivera is anchor of "Geraldo At Large" on Fox News Channel and a columnist for Fox News Latino. Watch "At Large" on Saturday and Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. ET. To continue reading this column, click here.