(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Mitt Romney's campaign advisers may still be busy vetting their short list of vice presidential candidates, but on Wednesday leaders of the Tea Party Express announced they would like to see Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as Romney's running mate on the GOP ticket.
"It is not a big surprise that Marco Rubio is the favorite candidate of the tea party for the vice-presidential nod," said Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer. "He ran as a strong fiscal conservative, and he has delivered with his record in the U.S. Senate for the last two years. The only surprise is that he led the other excellent candidates by such a wide margin."
The choice of Rubio is the result of a nationwide survey of Tea Party Express supporters, and his selection appears to be a sign that many are looking for a young, fresh candidate who can excite conservatives.
When asked by ABC's Ann Compton about the Tea Party Express'survey result, Rubio seemed to beam with excitement.
"I'm always honored by my association with the tea party," Rubio told Compton.
"I think the tea party has been a very positive movement for America. The tea party is not a partisan group. Somehow people think the tea party is a Republican movement. There are a lot of Republicans in the tea party, but what I've found is that the tea party movement are people that are just as upset at the Republican Party as they are the Democratic Party," he said.
Two other congressmen, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), also received substantial support from the group's members. "Both Ryan and West have become extremely popular within the tea party movement because of their strong stands on getting America's fiscal house in order, which is the number one issue facing our country," said Kremer in the group's press release.
The unscientific results were compiled over the past month from a mail-in ballot sent to all members. Twenty-seven candidates were on the ballot and respondents were asked to rate them as "strong," "ok," or "weak."
Rubio was found to be a "strong" candidate by 66.0 percent of tea party supporters. Ryan was second at 49.9 percent, and West was third at 46.8 percent to round out the top three finishers. The second tier of support was for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were also mentioned.
"What was clear from the results of the survey as well as the many comments we received is that conservatives want to win this election," noted Kremer. "They are committed to defeating Barack Obama in the race for the White House, taking the gavel out of the hands of Harry Reid in the Senate and adding to our tea party supporters in the House of Representatives."
Over 8,000 individuals received the survey.