MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Senator Marco Rubio has done his best to stay neutral during the early stages of the 2012 Republican primary, but he’s generating plenty of buzz and made an early appearance at the Hispanic Leadership Conference.
Rubio has been rumored to be the top pick for either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich for the position of vice-president. Both candidates believe Rubio could swing Florida into the GOP’s favor and score big with the Latino vote.
Senator John McCain said Friday in central Florida that Mitt Romney would indeed pick Rubio if he was selecting his vice-presidential candidate today.
But, Rubio’s speech was interrupted by protesters Friday who disagreed with his takes on immigration. Rubio didn’t miss a beat and asked that the people be allowed to stay and listen to what he had to say during his speech.
“Let me tell you guys something; these young men and women raise a very legitimate issue,” Rubio said. “They came here to a crowd that they know might not be kind to their point of view on issues. And they had the bravery and the courage to raise their voices. I thank God I’m in a country where I can do that and I want them to hear what I have to say.”
Rubio spent much of his speech discussing immigration, which will be a focal point for Romney or Gingrich should they select him as his vice-president.
“When you look at the electoral college, the Hispanic vote plays a very critical role,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie. “And it’s a swing vote; and it’s important that it swing more back our way during this election.”
Rubio spoke of the main problem in immigration being how to balance and honor “our legacy of immigrants and honors our legacy as a nation of laws.”
Voter Gladys Millan went to the conference just to hear from the candidates and said the GOP still has work to do with the Hispanic community.
“I think they need to work a little bit more,” Millan said. “That’s why I came to this forum.”
For his part, Rubio has repeatedly dodge questions about whether he would serve as a vice-president. He has softened his stance some from saying his main goal was to serve his term to he would do whatever it takes to support the 2012 GOP ticket.