Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., center (Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
MIAMI (CNN) – Marco Rubio, a senator whose name was floated first as a possible presidential, then vice presidential candidate, on Wednesday made an endorsement in the presidential race, saying, "It's evidently and increasingly clear that Mitt Romney is going to become the Republican nominee."
"We have to come together behind who I think has earned the nomination, and that's Mitt Romney," Rubio said of the former Massachusetts governor in an appearance on Fox News and Sean Hannity's program Wednesday night.
The primary process has been "very good," Rubio said, and the candidates "have a lot to be proud of."
"But I think we are at a stage where two of the candidates have openly admitted, the only way they can win a nomination is to have a floor fight in Tampa in August," Rubio said. "I don't think there is anything good about that. There is no way that a floor fight at the convention in Tampa in August is a recipe for a win in November. On the contrary, I think it's a recipe for disaster."
Rubio, a first term U.S. senator and tea party favorite who previously served a decade in the Florida state House, has repeatedly discouraged suggestions that he would join the GOP ticket. In the interview, he said he and Romney have talked, but "never about vice president, or anything like that." It is a suggestion he downplayed in an earlier interview.
"I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee but I'm always flattered when people bring it up," he said Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC. "I think they mean it as a compliment."
It is a ticket that another Romney endorser and Floridian would like to see. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is described as a mentor of Rubio, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier this month that Rubio is the "best orator of American politics today, a good family man."
Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, is to endorse Romney on Thursday. Romney thanked Rubio for the endorsement in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
"Marco Rubio is living proof that the American dream is still very much alive," said Mitt Romney. "From humble origins, he has risen to become one of the brightest lights in our political party. He has been a leading voice in the U.S. Senate and the country for the cause of restoring American greatness. He knows that the way forward is to end excessive regulations, shrink government, and get our economy growing. He understands that the way to strengthen our communities is to strengthen our families. He recognizes the dangers that will face America if we fail to maintain our military power. He understands how critical it is to bring new leadership to the White House."
Ahead of the Florida primary in January, Rubio would not predict a winner, but did say he expected the victor in his state to eventually be the nominee.
"I'm not going to speculate as to who's going to win," Rubio told CNN's Soledad O'Brien then. "Here's what I'm comfortable saying. I think the winner of Florida is in all likelihood going to be the nominee of our party. Florida is a mini-America. Virtually every issue we want them to be conversant on is a discussion we've had in Florida."
Romney went on to win the Sunshine state with a 14-point win over former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and per state party rules, all 50 delegates.