Sen. Marco Rubio was on the verge of dropping out of the 2010 race for Senate, convinced that then-Gov. Charlie Crist's popularity, power and money would be too much to overcome in a Republican primary. He was also afraid any future political ambitions would be crushed by Crist's supporters, Rubio wrote in his autobiography to be released next week.
Rubio said there was a tremendous amount of pressure to quit when he was far behind in the polls and had little money in the bank. He knew Crist would attack him and wondered how he could respond with few resources. He considered running instead for attorney general.
While laying the groundwork to switch races, however, he was asked about a rumor he was dropping out and suspected that Crist's campaign found out about the plans and was pressuring him out before he was ready to make the announcement. It angered him into staying in.
"I crossed the bridge and burned it behind me. There was no way back and no way out but forward," Rubio wrote in the 303-page book scheduled to be released Tuesday. The Associated Press purchased a copy Thursday.
Over the next six months, Rubio steadily gained support, both financially and in the polls, and eventually caught up to Crist, who began a string of negative attacks. But the attacks failed and Crist dropped out of the primary and ran as an independent. Rubio won in a landslide.
The autobiography, "An American Son," details Rubio's parents' life in Cuba and their early struggles in the U.S. It talks about his childhood in Miami, his political career and his rise against the odds to claim a Senate seat. Despite once being on the brink of giving up, he is now often discussed as a potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Rubio wrote that when it became clear Crist was going to run for Senate, he considered running for governor. But he was upset with Crist's support of the federal stimulus plan being pushed by President Barack Obama, and the image of Crist hugging the president at a rally to promote the proposal.
He complained to his wife that a Republican needed to challenge Crist.
"Then why don't you do it?" she said.
"At the time, I was just another Republican who worried about the future of my party and country in private, but refused to risk anything to do something about it," he wrote. "I wanted somebody to take on Crist, but I didn't want to do it myself."
The book details his grandparents and parents life in Cuba and how they struggled financially. They moved to Miami in search of a better life about three years before Fidel Castro took power. Still struggling and hoping that Cuba under Castro would be good for the working class, his parents briefly returned only to decide it was a mistake. Rubio was born in Miami in 1971, and he writes that growing up in a community of exiles helped shape who he is.
"Politics permeates every aspect of life in Miami's Cuban American community. It is impossible to be apolitical in a community of exiles," he writes.
The man he most admires in Florida politics? Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who he called a "one-man idea factory." He expresses his mistrust of Crist and reveals that Crist asked him to be vetted as a potential running mate when Crist sought the governor's office in 2006 _ an opportunity Rubio declined.
Rubio also discusses events like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Elian Gonzalez custody battle, his campaign to become Florida's first Cuban-American House speaker, policy positions and his time as a senator.
While much of the book details his political life and the campaign, there are touching personal episodes. He recalls an afternoon making calls to donors as his campaign struggled. He hangs up the phone to check on his toddler son, Dominick, only to find him face down in a shallow pool. He pulled the boy from the water, and after a few moments of silence, the boy cried and vomited water.
"The campaign and its problems meant nothing to me that afternoon. I held my son in my arms _ my breathing, living son _ and I wanted nothing else," Rubio wrote.
Later, Rubio lost his father. He goes into painful detail about his final moments when his father hallucinated and became disoriented. He made a decision to have a nurse administer morphine even though he was warned his father may never wake up. He says his father's final words to him in Spanish were "I know I am bothering you a lot." He then fell asleep and did not wake up.
Reporters Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Bill Kaczor and Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, and Matt Sedensky, Suzette Laboy and Terry Spencer in Miami contributed to this report.
Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bsfarrington