February 10, 2015 / By Stephen F. Hayes
Five days before he would take the biggest step of his young political career, Marco Rubio called Bernie Navarro, a Miami real estate investor, to ask for a favor. Rubio wanted to have a small, low-key gathering to thank friends and family before his official announcement the next day, and he needed someone to host it. Navarro, like Rubio the son of Cuban exiles, asked permission from his wife. Although she had denied his repeated requests to host a Super Bowl party, there was no hesitation in approving this one.
At dusk on a steamy Sunday evening, Rubio, wearing khakis, a plaid oxford, and brown loafers, walked to the middle of the backyard of the stately suburban Miami home to address the group that had come to wish him well. Navarro had introduced him as “the next president of the United States,” though he apologized for scooping his friend’s own announcement. The crowd of approximately 150 people included family, friends, staff from his Senate office and political operation, Florida supporters, and a smattering of major contributors from around the country. Rubio’s wife and children were there. So were his siblings Mario, Barbara, and Veronica. Clyde Fabretti, a Tea Party leader from central Florida, brought his wife and daughter. Philip Ellender, an executive with Koch Industries, came from Atlanta. Warren Tompkins, the South Carolina Republican strategist who will be running a pro-Rubio super-PAC, was there along with some of those who will serve on his staff.