Decision day is this Thursday for Sen. Marco Rubio. The looming question: will Rubio join the new Tea Party caucus in the U.S. Senate recently founded by fellow Republican senators Jim DeMint, Rand Paul and Utah's own Mike Lee.

Rubio is Florida's newly elected 39-year-old senator (he's seven days older than Lee, who currently bears the distinction of being the youngest sitting senator). A wave of Tea Party support — and some financial backing from DeMint — helped propel Rubio into office.

Late last week the Tampa Tribune laid out how Rubio is being courted by two different GOP groups within the U.S. Senate: the Tea Party and a more moderate faction led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken.

(Rubio) was one of four freshman senators chosen by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to go on a trip last week to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a coveted travel slot that helps boost the profile of a new senator. … Another well-known freshman, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, announced formation of the tea party caucus last week with Jim DeMint of South Carolina, elected in 2004, and fellow freshman Mike Lee of Utah as inaugural members. Neither Paul nor Lee was included on McConnell's trip.

Then yesterday, the Miami Herald reported that Rubio is invited but is not planning to attend the first meeting of the Tea Party caucus that takes place Thursday.

The meeting -- at least for now -- is not on Sen. Marco Rubio's schedule, said spokesman Alex Burgos, who pointed out that the freshman senator had yet to make up his mind about joining any caucus.

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