Miami, Florida (CNN) – He's the rising star in the Republican Party who won't be on the GOP ticket come November, but Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday he’s not disappointed in being passed over by Mitt Romney.
"No, he made the right choice. Paul Ryan is incredible," the Cuban-American Rubio told CNN in an exclusive interview outside a Romney rally in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. "Let me tell you, he brings a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm."
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Rubio was ever the good soldier on Monday. He stood at Romney's side at two separate events in the crucial battleground state of Florida, just 48 hours after the vice presidential pick went to the Wisconsin congressman.
For months, Rubio has predicted Romney would choose somebody else as his running mate, frequently telling reporters, "I'm not going to be the vice president." He praised Romney's decision to select someone with what he called "policy gravitas" as proof of the GOP contender's administrative skills.
"I've been telling people for weeks Mitt Romney is an excellent decision-maker, and he proved it again," Rubio said.
After flying on Romney's press charter in between events in St. Augustine and Miami, Rubio joined the presumptive Republican nominee for a brief news conference with reporters. Nearly every question asked was about Ryan's past proposals to overhaul Medicare, with a plan that would partially privatize the program for future seniors.
Rubio dismissed any notion Ryan's proposals, endorsed by Romney, would damage the GOP ticket with Florida's crucial aging voters.
"Just like Paul Ryan's mom is on Medicare, so is mine. Both of our moms are on Medicare here in Florida. And I want to protect Medicare. I want to save it," Rubio told CNN.
"It's going bankrupt. And so the only way to save it is to come up with a solution that allows our parents and our grandparents to see absolutely no changes to their Medicare," Rubio added.
The Florida senator said GOP plans would restructure the program for future retirees, “for the people like me and Paul Ryan. I'm 41. He's 42. Our Medicare is going to look different."
Rubio would have been the nation's first Latino on a presidential ticket if he had been picked. He shrugged off recent revelations that Ryan once opposed the trade embargo on Cuba, an issue that's critical to the island's exile community in South Florida. Ryan has since changed his position and now supports the current U.S. trade restrictions on the communist nation.
Romney did not mention the embargo issue during his rally in Miami, sticking to his usual stump speech on the economy.
"A lot of people when they get to Congress and they're not from South Florida and not familiar with the issue, they're free trade folks and they don't understand the issue," Rubio said.
"There have been many of these colleagues in the House and the Senate who, after the issue has been explained to them from our perspective, change their mind, and Paul Ryan is one of them," the Florida Senator told CNN.
As for the GOP ticket's prospects in Florida, Rubio did not hesitate. "They will win Florida," Rubio said. "I am predicting it."