TAMPA, Fla.— Marco Rubio linked his family’s immigrant story to that of Mitt Romney’s in a speech introducing the Republican nominee Thursday, saying the shared experiences were testimony to what makes America an exceptional nation.

Rubio, one of a long list of rising Republican stars granted key speaking roles at the Republican National Convention, balanced his address to a riveted audience to include elements of his own background that have endeared him to the party with a full-throated endorsement of Romney’s capacity to lead the nation, while also zinging the Democratic incumbent.

“Our problem with President Obama isn’t that he’s a bad person. By all accounts, he too is a good husband and a good father and, thanks to lots of practice, a good golfer,” Rubio said. “Our problem is that he’s a bad president.”

Previewing remarks from Romney expected to focus on the disappointment of the Obama term, Rubio said that “hope and change has become divide and conquer” as the Democrat seeks reelection.

“No matter how you feel about President Obama, this election is about your future, not his. And it’s not simply a choice between a Democrat and a Republican. It’s a choice about what kind of country we want America to be,” he said.

Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate representing Florida in 2010, and his sudden rise drew immediate comparisons with Obama’s. His unexpectedly strong challenge, fueled by tea party support, forced the establishment GOP choice, then-Gov. Charlie Crist, to abandon the party and run as an independent. Crist endorsed Obama on the eve of the GOP gathering in Tampa this week.

Unlike New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who did not mention Romney until near the end of his keynote speech, Rubio promptly spoke of Romney as “another man who understands what makes America exceptional.”

Rubio shared the story of his parents, who emigrated from Cuba and worked long hours to support their family once here, his father as a bartender.

“He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room,” Rubio said, drawing a standing ovation. “That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle.”

And in that vein, he noted that Romney’s father too “was born into an uncertain future in a foreign country,” and that “his family came to America to escape revolution.” George Romney was born in Mexico.

“They struggled through poverty and the Great Depression. And yet he rose to be an admired businessman and public servant. And in November, his son, Mitt Romney, will be elected president of the United States.”


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