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Rubio preps for national spotlight

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been a senator for about a year now, and as Rachel explained in a recent segment, he's "done essentially nothing in federal politics at all." The sum total of his legislative accomplishments? A resolution designating September 2011 as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

Rachel added that the Florida Republican "is not a particularly serious guy in terms of what he has done in his Senate life or even as a Senate candidate." That's clearly true. But given his right-wing worldview, his ethnicity, and the electoral significance of his home state, Rubio is widely seen as a strong contender for the Republican presidential ticket in 2012.

Though the senator downplays such talk publicly, Politico reports today that Rubio and his team are "spending an extraordinary amount of time, money and effort" to take control over his "personal narrative."

Rubio has even hired investigators to look into his own background, since he knows Democrats are doing the same. His political action committee paid a firm more than $40,000 to conduct opposition research on Rubio, and it's preparing to spend thousands more to dig into family stories, financial documents and real estate records -- anything that could pop up in a political "oppo" file. The effort to hard wire Rubio's version of his life story into the public psyche is remarkable for a freshman senator, more on the scale of a presidential candidate. Some in his operation say the staffing and money spent are comparable to Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's efforts when they arrived in the Senate with big names and even bigger ambition.

Rubio is also, incidentally, "racing to publish his memoirs," which will be out next year.

His denials about the 2012 race notwithstanding, Rubio's p.r. efforts are clearly the kind of steps one takes in advance of a national campaign. A senator doesn't usually write an autobiography after 13 uneventful months in office, and a candidate doesn't invest $40,000 to conduct opposition research on himself in 2012 when he's not up for re-election until 2016.

For the record, there are plenty of reasons to think Rubio won't get the V.P. nod, regardless of his former attendance at a Mormon church. The Floridian has no accomplishments to speak of; his far-right vision won't help much with Latino voters (Rubio even opposes the DREAM Act); he's already been caught making bogus claims about his family history; and he's argued publicly that bedrock American programs like Social Security and Medicare have weakened the fabric of our society.

You don't need to be a professional opposition researcher to know Rubio, who's never demonstrated a working understanding of any area of public policy, is likely to struggle when confronted with national scrutiny.