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Florida GOP Face-Off: Rubio Files Papers; Crist Decision Comes Thursday

MIAMI -- Former Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio is officially running for the Senate after a signing ceremony in his hometown of West Miami.

Rubio said he is running because the Obama administration and Congress are leading America in a direction "that will rob us of our exceptionalism and permanently redefine America in a way that we will become more like everybody else, rather than continuing to be unlike anyone else."

In something of a break with the GOP establishment, Rubio also released a statement taking issue with Arizona's controversial new immigration law.

"I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion,' are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position," he said. "It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens."

The son of Cuban immigrants who rose from relative obscurity to become one of the most influential Hispanic politicians in the country, Rubio played to the mostly Spanish speaking crowd at his signing ceremony.

"I know that America is great and exceptional and unlike anything else because of the men and women who are here with me today, who lost their own country, who lost the dreams of their youth," he said to the largely Cuban-American audience.

Rubio's rival for the GOP Senate nomination, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, said following a cabinet meeting Tuesday that he will make a decision about whether to stay in the race on Thursday, one day before his deadline to decide, according to the Associated Press.


Crist had been expected to cruise to the nomination, but Rubio, with a focus on fiscal discipline and harsh criticisms of Crist as a "Republican in Name Only," emerged as the clear frontrunner with an assist from the Tea Party movement; he now leads Crist by double digits in polls.

Crist is now considering whether to run for the Senate seat as an independent, which polls suggest could lead him to a general election victory. Republicans have been pushing Crist not to take that course of action.

During a press conference today, Rubio said Crist's decision didn't matter.

"Why I'm running is not going to change whether he runs one way or the other," he said. "The reason why I am running is because I believe that I'm the only candidate in this race that will stand up to this agenda and offer a clear alternative and that's not going to change no matter what registration he has or anybody else has in this race."