A new CNN/ORC poll released Thursday found 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.) to be Republicans’ preferred choice for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, while other handicappers' favorites like Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWeek ahead in tech: Debate over online sex trafficking bill heats up 'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision MORE (R-Ohio) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty failed to crack double-digit support.

Twenty-eight percent of Republican voters said they would most like to see Rubio as vice president, the most of any candidate. The next closest contenders were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Ryan: Americans want to see Trump talking with Dem leaders 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 (R-Wis.), who tied with 16 percent of support.

But Portman, Pawlenty, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — considered the front-runners by many vice presidential watchers — all struggled to gain much traction with voters.

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Jindal led the second tier with 8 percent of GOP voters, followed by Portman and McDonnell, tied with 6 percent, and Pawlenty, the pick of just 4 percent of voters.

Rubio's surge is impressive considering the last survey of Republican voters — conducted by Fox News last month — showed the Florida lawmaker pulling just 19 percent of GOP voters. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice topped that list, pulling the support of three in 10 GOP voters.

Her name did not appear in the CNN/ORC poll released Thursday. And “someone else” received only 4 percent of the vote.

In a tell that the Obama campaign is taking a Rubio pick seriously, the campaign’s Florida state director wrote Thursday that Rubio would be a disaster as vice president and encouraged Floridians to share what they know about Rubio with the campaign — “the good, bad and ugly.”
 
On Thursday, Romney told NBC News he wanted his pick to have "a strength of character" and "vision."

"I certainly expect to have a person that has a strength of character, a vision for the country that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country," Romney said. "I happen to believe this is a defining election for America, that we're going to be voting for what kind of America we're going to have."