Marco Rubio nailed the Florida senate race on Tuesday, easily trouncing independent Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek in a much-dissected contest. The charismatic, telegenic, and pious Rubio has oft been mentioned as a potential "Face of the Tea Party," and even before his widely praised victory speech on Tuesday night, speculation was rife that the small-government adherent might consider running for higher office — and possibly soon. After Rubio's speech, Sarah Palin commented that Rubio is "potentially a presidential candidate someday." But could that day, as some pundits say, come as early as 2012?

Why wouldn't he run? "This guy has serious momentum," says Will Heaven at The Telegraph, "comparable even to Barack Obama’s leading up to the 2008 presidential election." Granted, a couple of things are working against against any 2012 hopes Rubio might have — "he's only 39" and "Sarah Palin may have other ideas" that year. Those factors aside, based on his "ruthless gutting of Governor Charlie Crist," Rubio clearly has the potential.
"Midterm elections 2010: Does Marco Rubio have the makings of a U.S. president?"

2012 is too soon: While Rubio has certainly sounded presidential lately, says Kyle Munzenrieder at the Miami New Times, "the timing would make it difficult for [him] to run in 2012." Yes, President Obama also ran as a political novice, but even he had "more than two years to get acclimated to D.C. before throwing his hat into the ring." Rubio would have to start laying the groundwork for a 2012 bid within months.
"The Marco Rubio campaign for president might as well begin tomorrow"

President? No. Vice president? Yes: "As open-ended as the GOP 2012 presidential race is," says Tim Heffernan at Esquire, "I think the veep slot is locked up already: It's Marco Rubio." The "young, attractive" senator-elect is "a moderate Tea Partier [that any] starched establishment conservative could love," and he "has no Washington record to haunt him." Add it up, and "Rubio's presence on the ticket would be nothing but positive for any Republican presidential nominee."
"Marco Rubio, vice presidential nominee 2012"