Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a breakout star of the 2010 election and a favorite of the tea party movement, kept a low profile during his first three months in the Senate. That’s begun to change.

In a matter of days, Rubio, who vanquished former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the Senate last year and catapulted to fame in the Republican Party, has registered opposition to raising the federal debt ceiling in a high-profile newspaper opinion piece and called on lawmakers to authorize force to capture Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, garnered attention last year when he challenged Crist for Florida’s open Senate seat and defied conventional wisdom by winning the Republican primary and fending off Crist’s independent bid. His election created an intense following among tea party activists, who admired his calls to curb federal spending and stoked speculation of a future presidential bid.

The 39-year-old former Florida House speaker had followed a path forged by one-time senators President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton _ keep your head down when you reach the Senate, learn the ropes and don’t make waves. But aides said Rubio felt compelled to speak his mind as the Senate moved closer to considering a plan to raise the federal debt ceiling, a move most conservatives oppose.

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