Marco Rubio Gets Tea Party 'Veepstakes' Seal of Approval

Young Florida senator gets top support from tea party group.

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) conference, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Amid growing speculation about who likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will soon tap as a running mate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio got the vice presidential nod from a national Tea Party group.

Rubio, who successfully defeated a popular moderate Republican-turned-independent candidate for Senate during the 2010 election, has maintained his popularity with the insurgent conservative movement since taking office. The Cuban-American with charisma to spare has proven an apt messenger of the small-government message, while learning how to maneuver in the hallways of power at the Capitol.

[Read: Romney faces avalanche of pressure to release more tax returns.]

"It is not a big surprise that Marco Rubio is the favorite candidate of the tea party for the vice-presidential nod," said Amy Kremer, chairman of the group Tea Party Express, in a release on Wednesday. "He ran as a strong fiscal conservative, and he has delivered with his record in the U.S. Senate for the last two years. The only surprise is that he led the other excellent candidates by such a wide margin."

The group, which claims to be the largest Tea Party political action committee in the country, conducted a nationwide survey of its supporters, with Rubio being labeled a "strong" candidate by 66 percent of respondents. The next highest choices were Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Florida Rep. Allen West, who both received about 50 percent. Support for all three politicians outstripped that of former GOP primary rival Sen. Rick Santorum, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, all of whom have heavily courted--and generally received--strong Tea Party support.

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"What was clear from the results of the survey as well as the many comments we received is that conservatives want to win this election," Kremer said. "They are committed to defeating Barack Obama in the race for the White House, taking the gavel out of the hands of Harry Reid in the Senate and adding to our tea party supporters in the House of Representatives."

The release said more than 8,000 had responded to the survey.

The Romney campaign has hinted it is getting closer to revealing the vice presidential selection and has begun fundraising off opportunities to meet what it's dubbed "America's Comeback Team." And while there have been conflicting reports on whether or not Rubio is even being vetted for the position, he's been a rumored candidate for some time.

[Read: Romney surrogate calls Obama 'un-American.']

However, the former Massachusetts governor is reportedly placing personal comfort and compatibility over pizzazz when it comes to making his decision. But given the tumultuous time Romney had securing the GOP nomination earlier this year, particularly struggling to win over his party's most conservative members, he might be well served by favoring a candidate who could help boost enthusiasm among his own base.

Typically, presidential nominees announce their running mates in the days leading up to their party convention, and Republicans are set to convene in Tampa, Fla., at the end of August.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

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