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Marco Rubio Endorses Mitt Romney in Possible First Step Toward VP Bid

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​Marco Rubio finally stepped off the sidelines of the GOP primary last night, backing Mitt Romney for president in an interview on Fox News. While the endorsement isn't all that surprising, Rubio's timing sparks a key question: Is he backing Romney because it's clear Mitt will hold off the competition, or because it's the latest phase in Rubio's Operation Become Vice President?

"We've got to come together behind who I think has earned this nomination and that's Mitt Romney," Rubio said.

The endorsement came just hours after MSNBC pushed Rubio in another interview about his vice presidential aspirations; again, the young senator swore he's not angling to be a heart attack away from the presidency.

"It's not going to happen," Rubio told MSNBC. "I'm obviously flattered that people think about me that way. There are some things I'd like to get done here in the United States Senate. I'm enjoying the role that we have here."

But Rubio had to know that he'd reignite the VP talk by endorsing Romney a few hours later on Fox.

He told Fox that he'd never talked with Romney about joining his ticket, and said he was endorsing the former Massachusetts governor because he didn't want to see a nasty fight for votes at the convention in Tampa this summer.

"We've got to come together behind who I think has earned this nomination and that's Mitt Romney," Rubio said.

The endorsement is just the latest in a recent string of evidence that, despite all pleas to the contrary, Rubio is taking his chances of being a VP seriously.

He's recently bumped up the publication of his autobiography to beat out a less flattering tome by Washington Post writer Manuel Roig-Franzia, spent tens of thousands researching potential attack ads and pushed for an open investigation into his finances to be closed.

After endorsing Romney, Fox host Sean Hannity again asked Rubio if he'd be Romney's No. 2. He didn't quite say no, answering like this, according to the Miami Herald:

"I don't believe I'm going to be asked to be the vice presidential nominee," he said. "That's not what I intend to be. That's not what I want to be. And that's not what's going to happen."

Riiigggghhhhht.

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