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3 Questions for Marco Rubio Biographer Manuel Roig-Franzia

RIse of Marco Rubio.jpg

When Marco Rubio introduces Mitt Romney on Thursday, the Florida senator will see his rising star climb even higher into the national and international spotlight. Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia explores Rubio's ascent in a new book titled... wait for it... The Rise of Marco Rubio.

On Monday, Roig-Franzia called into WUSF's Florida Matters: The Convention for a chat with host Carson Cooper. Here are excerpts:

Carson Cooper: Why did you write this book, and why now?

Manuel Roig-Franzia: The reason is because Marco Rubio is one of the brightest stars in the Republican party. That's one. The second part of the answer is a little bit broader. That is that his story allows us to have a dialog about this very, very interesting segment of the American political landscape, which is Hispanics. Hispanics are growing in influence. Fifty-thousand Hispanics turn 18 and become eligible to vote legally each month. And moving forward, Marco Rubio will be something of a test case for how the national dialog evolves around a Hispanic politician who has real national prospects.

CC: Have you met Marco Rubio? Has he read the book?

MRF: I haven't talked to him about the book. I have met him. There are things in my book that are not in his book. I talk about this very emotional saga of his grandfather.

CC: You were the reporter back in October of last year that reported in the Washington Post that Rubio repeatedly embellished the facts of his family's story--that compelling story when they immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. He says he's the son of exiles, suggesting that they fled [Fidel] Castro, when in fact as you discovered, they left in 1956, when Batista was still in charge. So what about that, and do you think that damaged the Rubio brand in any way?

MRF: What you're referencing is an element of the Marco Rubio story that has been very controversial. He had been presenting himself as the son of exiles who had been pushed off the island, when in reality they had come two and a half years prior to Castro taking over. This was something that was discovered both by myself and by your local paper there, the St. Petersburg Times, around the same time. What it did was, it sort of torqued the national perception of him, and it was something that he had to really work hard to counter. That said, he's still a very popular politician. He's still beloved by the tea party faction of the Republican party, and I think he has broader appeal, too. If anybody wants to look for affirmation of that, all they have to do is look at the decision to have him introduce Mitt Romney. That's a prestige spot like very few others.

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