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 Rubio The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joins CBS News as contributor 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.

"Can you imagine Marco Rubio debating Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Top Sanders adviser: 'He is a little bit angry' Working Families Party endorses Warren after backing Sanders in 2016 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."