By Gabriel Debenedetti
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, said on Tuesday he would make a decision about his political future around this time next year.
"For me, the choice in 2016 will be whether I run for re-election and serve in the Senate for another six years, whether the time has come to perhaps go to the private sector, or whether I want to run for another office like the presidency, because I feel passionately about some of the things our country needs to be doing," the freshman senator from Florida said at a Reuters Health Summit in Washington.
Rubio won his Senate seat in 2010 on a wave of support from the conservative Tea Party movement. He has since established himself as a leading voice on issues such as immigration reform.
He was considered as a possible running mate in 2012 with former White House candidate Mitt Romney, but Romney eventually settled on U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Rubio helped to craft a comprehensive immigration bill that passed the U.S. Senate in June 2013, soon after Republican leaders stressed the importance of such legislation to help appeal to traditionally Democrat-leaning Hispanic voters. But the legislation has stalled in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
"The notion that somehow if immigration reform passed, suddenly 50 percent of Hispanics would be voting for Republicans? A, it's not the reason to do it, and B, that's not a calculation I ever made, and I don't think it's accurate. But it has political ramifications," he noted.
Rubio said he was skeptical a comprehensive bill could pass the Republican-led House, but said he hoped piecemeal bills might lead to immigration reform. His work on the Senate bill provoked a backlash from some right-wing Republicans who oppose immigration reform, hurting his stature with his party's conservative wing.
The senator has also been vocal on foreign policy, advocating a more muscular style of engagement in contrast to calls for a less interventionist approach favored by some other prominent Republicans, such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
"If America continues to disengage from the world stage, the world will become more chaotic, more dangerous and less peaceful. I think recent events actually bear that out," he said on Tuesday.
Looking ahead to 2016, Rubio is not the only Floridian who may consider a presidential run. Jeb Bush - a former Florida governor and the son and brother of former presidents - has been consulting his inner circle about the possibility of running.
Strategists say that if Jeb Bush were to enter the 2016 race, it would make it harder for Rubio to raise money since the two have ties to many of the same Republican donors.
But Rubio said he had not spoken with Bush about either of their plans.
"When you decide to run for an office like that, I think people make decisions based on themselves, not on what someone else is going to do. It's not uncommon in American politics to see people who are close and have worked together in the past running for the same office, especially when it comes to the presidency," he said.
(Editing by Caren Bohan and Dan Grebler)