CORAL GABLES, FL -- Sen. Marco Rubio kicked off his bus tour on Saturday with an aggressive swing through southern Florida, meeting hundreds of well wishers who told him that he is the person they would most like to see in the White House.
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No, he's not running for president -- yet. And even though the Florida senator will spend the next two weeks in swing states like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, it is not for any campaign, but a book tour to promote Rubio's newly released memoir, "An American Son."
But that did not stop his fans in the Sunshine State from telling him how much they hope his political aspirations extend beyond the Senate.
If you ask Rubio, he's not working towards any other title than, perhaps, "best selling author." But hopping out of a bus emblazoned with his name and picture to sign books, greet potential voters and hold babies has a distinct campaign-like quality similar to what Floridians experienced just a few months earlier when then-Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were slugging it out ahead of the state's primary.
It may be part of the reason why many who showed up to the four book signings throughout Saturday seemed to have dual purposes: meet the senator, then tell him how much the country, not just Florida, needs him.
"The future president of the United States is here!" yelled a woman standing in line at the Miami Barnes & Noble waiting to get her copy signed.
Rubio put down his black sharpie briefly to glance behind each of his shoulders. "Where? I don't see him," he responded.
Swatting down one of the day's many questions about the prospects of him becoming Romney's running mate, Rubio told a gaggle of reporters, "We're not here to talk about that, we're here to talk about the book."
"Talk about 2016," yelled a supporter standing by at Books & Books in Coral Gables.
The release of Rubio's memoir comes in the midst of Romney's search for a vice president. Rubio is the only candidate that Romney has admitted is being vetted after the Republican nominee refuted reports that Rubio was not being considered. After his election in 2010, the former Florida state legislator quickly rose to become a favorite amongst tea party conservatives, and this year has been frequently cited by members of the GOP as a top choice to join the ticket.
The autobiography was originally scheduled for release in October, but was pushed up, a move that some speculate had to do with a competing Rubio biography from a Washington Post reporter and an interest in being able to take advantage of the headlines he is drawing as a heavily talked about emerging leader in the Republican party. But the senator countered that the earlier release was more a product of convenience based on his schedule and being able to complete the work more quickly than originally anticipated.
"When the book was ready to go, we released it. So you release books when they're ready. Obviously the longer I wait, the more things happen, the more I have to add to the book," Rubio said after a signing in Fort Lauderdale.
The son of Cuban immigrants said his autobiography is not meant to be a political one, rather "a tribute to the American dream." But speaking to reporters at each of the signings, he did not shy from repeating some of his recent attacks on President Obama.
"He wants to use immigration as a Republican vs. Democrat issue and vice versa," Rubio said of the president. "That just makes it harder to solve.”
On the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act, Rubio said, "If you read what the chief justice arrived at, he's basically saying that the Congress now has the power to require you to buy running shoes as long as they tax you if you fail to buy it...If Congress can you make you buy something and penalize for you and tax you for it if you don’t, what powers does Congress not have? Is that really the country we live in?”
But by and large, as much as both supporters and media have wanted to shift the focus from his book to his future, Rubio has tried to keep the conversation about "An American Son." He began his book tour in friendly territory around his native city of Miami. At his final stop on Saturday in Coral Gables, he piled out of the bus with his wife Jeanette Rubio, their children and scores of cousins, nieces and nephews. It is a family, Rubio says, that represents the best of America.
"It's not just my story," Rubio said of his memoir. "It's the story of my grandparents and of my father and my mother and the sacrifices they went through so they could give us the chances they never had.”