Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that he's flattered by the attention he's receiving as a possible vice presidential nomination on next's year's Republican ticket, and offered no words to stop such speculation even though an announcement about the No. 2 spot isn't likely for another year.
Rubio's comments -- or lack of -- are unlikely to stop the chatter in GOP circles that his relative youth, vitality and political views in line with the Tea Party movement make him an ideal selection as a running mate.
"It's flattering," Rubio told Fox News' Sean Hannity.
Florida senator on role of government, solving economic crisis
"They've said it about other people before. They'll say it about other people in the future," he added without distancing himself or otherwise downplaying the suggestion that he would make a strong vice presidential selection.
Rubio also spoke highly of the current GOP field of presidential candidates. A posture in stark contrast to some within the party who are left wanting from the announced candidates.
"I think it's an underrated field," Rubio offered during a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where he was to deliver a speech.
Rubio offered one suggestion why it's unwise to criticize the fortitude of any candidates.
"Running for president -- it's not a decision. It's a process. You can't just say 'I want to be president.' You have to out and actually do it. That means long days on the road. Speech after speech; audience after audience. A lot of hands you have to shake. Waking up at 4:00 a.m. to do morning shows and staying in cheap hotels all across Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and the early states -- all because you want to be president. That tests people. And from that process you're going to get someone who has the stomach to face the kinds of issues that a president has to face."
Looking and sounding like a politician on a national stage, which many people want him to be, Rubio offered a full-throated endorsement of conservatism at the shrine dedicated to the man Rubio called the greatest American of the 20th century.
The senator's appearance at the Reagan Library certainly gave the first-term Republican the imprimatur of an endorsement from the Reagan brand. A connection made even stronger by Nancy Reagan's personal invitation to Rubio to visit the library and make remarks.
"I tell people all the time that I was born and raised in Ronald Reagan's America," Rubio told the audience of 1,000 people.
But during a question and answer session following his 20 minute speech, Rubio was returned to the rampant speculation that he'll be the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee in 2012. He said it's a great honor to be thought of for the spot but suggested that serious contemplation about running on a national ticket would compromise his work as a senator.
"The reality of it is that I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee."
His answer was about the only thing that disappointed the audience this night. And it's not clear if Rubio himself hopes his prediction will turn out wrong.
Earlier during his speech, the senator said the country aspires to prosperity and compassion and often pointed to Reagan's accomplishments and philosophy as guideposts for today.
"Ronald Reagan understood that -- perhaps better... than any voice that I've ever heard speak."
He said government programs have weakened the country and that those in need should first look to their families and communities before turning to the government.
For Rubio, the fallacy of the expanded government role rests in the costs that are now borne by taxpayers. "Americans in the 20th century built here the richest most prosperous nation in the history of the world. And yet today we have built for ourselves a government that not even the richest and most prosperous nation in the face of the earth can fund or afford to pay for. An extraordinarily tragic accomplishment, if you can call it that."
Echoing his views from the campaign trail, Rubio said reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is essential. He rejected changes for current recipients but said it was his generation's duty to solve the rocketing costs of these popular programs.
For a moment it appeared as if Mrs. Reagan would become the story as she fell while entering the room on Rubio's arm. The audience gasped as Reagan's cane slipped and nearly took her to the ground. Rubio quickly reached for her and with others nearby kept the former first lady from hitting the deck. After a few seconds the duo were walking again. A halting smile returned to Reagan's face and she remained in her seat for the entire event.