A small group sat in front of a big-screen TV at the West Miami Recreation Center Tuesday night to watch a man who has grown up before their eyes.
Senator Marco Rubio began his political career in his hometown of West Miami, in the city where he continues to live.
"We went door to door, we knocked doors together and he got elected, three months after," recalled Miami-Dade County Commissioners Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa.
She is reluctant to call herself a name she has been given, Senator Rubio's political godmother. As the then-mayor of the city of West Miami, Rubio came to her for guidance as he ran for a commission seat.
"It was going to happen anyway, but I guess I was the vehicle to help accomplish his first step. It was meant to be," Sosa said.
His fast-moving political career is summed up with Time magazine's bold headline: “The Republican Savior.”
Rubio himself has shied away from the title, tweeting, "There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus.”
But after two presidential election losses for the GOP, and a party that only took in 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, the rising star was offered a big opportunity. He gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, accusing the Democratic president of hurting middle-class Americans with tax increases and deficit spending.
"There's a desire for some new thinking, a fresh face, and Marco Rubio, because of the state he's from, because of his relative youth – compared to other leaders in Washington –and because of the fact he is from a Hispanic family, those are things Republicans are looking for," said Justin Sayfie, the publisher of the SayfieReview.com.
Rubio delivered speeches in both English and Spanish, which is the native language of his parents, who are Cuban immigrants.
"When he speaks, he speaks from the heart," said a man attending the viewing party at the recreation center.
"The fact that Senator Rubio is bilingual and will be able to speak to certain Americans in their native language is a strength and an asset for the Republican Party," Sayfie said.