Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) insisted Wednesday afternoon that he would not accept the vice presidential nomination if it were offered to him.
"I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee. I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on my job right now and the answer is going to probably be no," he said at The Atlantic's Washington Ideas Festival. He quickly added "The answer's going to be no" when he realized he'd left the door open a crack.
"Throughout the history of American public policy-making, the United States Senate has provided the genesis for some of the greatest things that this country has ever done," the freshman senator continued. "And if I dedicate the time to it, the seriousness to it, I have a chance to be a part of something like that. You're never going to get to that stage if you're focused on it as a launch pad for something else."
Rubio also addressed the attacks Texas Gov. Rick Perry has faced from opponents over his support of giving in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, saying that while he had also supported such legislation in the past, the federal government's failure to act and rising numbers of undocumented immigrants had made finding carve-outs for workers increasingly difficult.
"As the years go on and the immigration issue goes unresolved and people feel like we're not addressing this issue in a serious way, the ability to carve out narrow exceptions for folks like that has gotten harder and harder and harder," he said. "Now, politically, it's become nearly impossible to advocate for things like this, and I think it will remain the case, unfortunately, until federal policymakers give people in this country assurances both through action and word that we are serious about bringing under control the illegal immigration problem and creating a legal immigration process that works."
Rubio declined to criticize Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates for hitting Perry on the issue, but stressed that Republicans could not simply attack undocumented immigrants without offering solutions.
"It's a very powerful political weapon and the temptation to use it in politics sometimes overcomes the opportunity to solve it," he said.
"We cannot be the anti-illegal immigration party. We have to be the pro-legal immigration party. We have to be a party that advocates for a legal immigration system that's good for Americans, good for America and honors our tradition both as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws."