By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Marco Rubio, a rising Republican star from Florida who is considered a top candidate to be his party's vice presidential nominee, said on Wednesday he would not take the job if offered. Probably.
Rubio, who represents a state that swings between voting for Republicans and Democrats in presidential elections, is often cited as a potential 2012 running mate for the Republican nominee because of the importance of his state and his Hispanic heritage. Hispanics are a powerful U.S. voting bloc.
Potential VP picks often play coy about the likelihood of being chosen, and Rubio tried to rule it out on Wednesday, even as he tripped himself up doing it.
Asked at a "Washington Ideas Forum" conference whether he would turn down the position if offered, Rubio said: "Yeah, I believe so. I'm not going to be the...vice presidential nominee."
"The answer's going to probably be no," he continued, before correcting himself: "The answer's going to be no."
Republicans have not yet chosen a nominee to run against President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in next year's election. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has held the front-runner position off and on for months.
Presidential candidates often choose running mates based on whether they can help win a specific state or help shore up a perceived weakness, political or otherwise.
Rubio praised the Senate, saying it was an important institution where much could be accomplished in public policy, and he indicated he would be happy to make his mark there.
"The United States Senate has provided the genesis for some of the greatest things that this country has ever done. And if I dedicate the time to it and seriousness to it, I have a chance to be a part of something like that," he said.
"You're never going to get to that stage if you're focused on it as some sort of a launch pad for something else."
Vice President Joe Biden served in the Senate for decades before joining Barack Obama on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2008.
The Senate has produced several other recent presidential and vice presidential candidates, including John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, and Republican John McCain, the Republican candidate who lost to Obama in 2008.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)