If United States presidential politics is largely about being in the right place at the right time, then Marco Rubio most certainly is.
His party - ever more the preserve of ageing white males and shunned by key voting groups, such as the young and Hispanics - screams for renewal. And cometh the hour, cometh the man. The Republican Saviour proclaims the cover of Time magazine's latest issue and, indeed, many in the party pin their hopes on the young, Hispanic, and indisputably talented junior senator from Florida.
Rubio's ascent has been fast. At the age of 28, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Aged just 31, he became that body's first Cuban-American speaker. In 2010, he toppled the establishment favourite to win Florida's then open US Senate seat. Just two years later, at the age of 41, he was on Mitt Romney's shortlist of vice-presidential running mates.
Today, he will have his most important stage yet as he delivers the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. The occasion represents an opportunity and a risk for a man expected to make a White House run of his own in 2016. A strong performance would raise his profile further, but a flop could stall his rise.
Although Rubio is not formally of the Tea Party, his conservative economic and social views have endeared him to it. The exception is immigration where he has emerged as a leading Republican advocate of reform. The biggest danger facing Rubio right now is over-hype.
- IndependentBy Rupert Cornwell