Marco Rubio’s Dad Takes Center Stage in New Ad

Watch Marco Rubio's First Early-State Broadcast Ad 1:00

Sen. Marco Rubio's first early-state broadcast ad — a tribute to his father and a strategic move to highlight his biographical story — will begin airing Thursday in Iowa, NBC News has learned.

The 60-second spot is the first in a $20 million ad buy that begins Thursday and extends through February in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, according to a campaign aide.

"His family's story is a classic American story that voters everywhere can relate to"

The main character of the ad, titled "Bartender," isn't the presidential candidate himself. It's his father. "I remember the sounds of his keys jingling at the front door of our home, well past midnight, as he returned from another long day at work," Rubio narrates over several sepia-toned scenes.

The movie-like montage eventually cuts to Rubio at a campaign event. "My father stood behind a small portable bar in the back of a room for all those years so that I could stand behind this podium in front of this room in this nation," Rubio says. "That journey from behind that bar to behind this podium, that’s the essence of the American Dream."

The biographical ad is meant to introduce the senator and his life story to an audience who may not be familiar with it.

"Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are still getting to know Marco," campaign communications director Alex Conant said. "His family's story is a classic American story that voters everywhere can relate to."

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Iowans will begin seeing the ad on their televisions just a few days after Rubio finishes a five-day swing through the primary battleground state. At a campaign stop in Council Bluffs on Monday, Rubio was asked whether he feels his campaign is entering a new, stepped-up phase.

"It's a new phase in the campaign only to the extent that we're now 70 days away from the Iowa caucuses, and so more and more people are starting to pay attention," Rubio said. "They're getting closer to making a decision, and if you were going to spend money in a campaign advertising, now would be around the time that you would start doing that."

Rubio added: 'From our perspective we're going to continue to do what we've been doing the whole time, which is explaining to people what our ideas are and how that will make America greater than it's ever been."