Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) evoked the name of Florida's conservative darling Saturday, telling the crowd at the Florida Presidency 5 Forum that Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE (R-Fla.) would make a formidable vice-presidential candidate.

When asked during Thursday's GOP debate which of his fellow candidates he would want for vice president, Gingrich said he wasn't sure. He said Saturday that his response should have been that he couldn't choose from the candidates on stage because Rubio wasn't there.

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"Can you imagine Marco Rubio debating Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE?" Gingrich said to a standing ovation. "The contrast between common sense and liberal nonsense would be so big."

Gingrich said he wasn't committing to selecting Rubio, but that the freshman senator would be on anyone's short list.

Rubio is a popular Republican figure across the country, but nowhere does the Cuban-American leader of Tea Party fame carry as much weight as in Florida, where Republican activists listening to Gingrich will vote Saturday afternoon in an influential straw poll with a track record of predicting the Republican nominees for president.

Gingrich also said that if nominated, he would challenge President Obama to seven 3-hour debates in classic Lincoln-Douglas style. He called Obama the "the best food stamp president in history" and said that while Democrats stand for food stamps and dependency, Republicans stand for paychecks.

Despite ranking fourth or fifth in most recent polls, Gingrich worked to create the impression that he was already Obama's inevitable successor by telling voters what would be needed to help him unseat radical judges, replace the Environmental Protection Agency and make English the U.S. government's official language.

"To achieve that level of change, I need you to be with me for the next eight years, bringing pressure to bear on the Congress, reporting back when things aren't working."