TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told members of Utah’s delegation to the Republican National Convention his most significant memory of their state was visiting the Osmond studios as an 8-year-old.
“It was the closest I ever got to Hollywood. So it was a big deal,” he said, describing how he and his family members tried to emulate Utah’s famous musical act by lip syncing to songs as the “Sunshine Cousins.”
Rubio, who grew up in Nevada as a member of the LDS Church, also talked a bit about BYU football before moving on to what Utah’s Republicans need to do to get Mitt Romney elected president.
“You can start making a difference in Florida by leaving a really good tip for your room service person at the end of your stay,” he said, noting that Florida is one of a handful of battleground states that could swing for either Romney or President Barack Obama in November.
“Utah has a special place in all this because one of the greatest successes Romney has had is the Salt Lake Olympics, which is a story that hasn’t been told enough,” Rubio said. “Well, America is in even more trouble than those Olympics were and we need someone to come in and help us turn it around.”
Rubio, 41 and younger than every other member of the Senate except Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee, sounded just a bit nervous about introducing Romney on stage Thursday night.
“It’s my honor to be able to present him and I hope I don’t blow it,” he said at the morning meeting of the Utah delegation. Rubio had been seen as a likely pick by Romney for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, which went instead to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
Rubio joked about watching Ryan corralling his children after his acceptance speech Wednesday night. “I know the feeling. You’ve got to play zone. You have two kids, you can play man-to-man,” the father of four said.
While posing for photos with a long line of Utah delegates, Rubio told reporters that it’s also a party priority to get GOP candidates in other races elected, including 4th District congressional candidate Mia Love.
“The whole country is watching Mia, right? We’re really excited about that,” he said. “In addition to being really important for the Republican Party, it’s important to maintaining that majority in the House.”
He also said even though when it comes to the presidential race, the GOP “can’t take for granted the success we’ve had in Utah in the past,” Utahns should “figure out a way they can be helpful in other states, including their neighboring states like Nevada, which is a swing state that could very well help decide the election.”
Gov. Gary Herbert said seeing Romney accept the GOP presidential nomination is the culmination of a campaign that for many supporters started with Romney’s first run in 2008.
“The hard work, and the effort, the sacrifice, it’s all going to pay off tonight,” Herbert said. “Hopefully it propels him into the Oval Office.”
The governor backed Romney’s first White House bid as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who broke with many Utah Republicans and supported the party’s 2008 nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Herbert joked that he’s doing his part for the Romney campaign this election year. “I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to deliver Utah for Mitt Romney.”
Love left the convention early Thursday to return to Utah, so she could watch Romney’s speech at a party catered by Hires Big H at her West Jordan campaign headquarters.
But she didn’t forget the GOP leaders and activists from Utah still at the convention.
Each member of the state’s delegation had a note from Love waiting in their hotel room after her convention speech Tuesday night, thanking them for their support.
Love said she personally signed all of the more than 200 cards rather than relying on a printed signature.
“Are you kidding me? I want to take care of Utah,” she said.