Marco Rubio quickly glanced at several papers handed to him by an aide as he sat in a wooden chair in a small television studio in the U.S. Capitol complex.
“I’m ready,” the telegenic Republican senator from Florida said before flashing a smile and staring into the television camera.
He read the papers — two letters from constituents asking questions on the debt ceiling and foreign aid — out loud and then answered the queries on camera.
It’s part of a new weekly Web video series Rubio is launching today where he’ll answer questions from the folks back home on video and then post it online.
“I think, honestly, a lot of people doubt whether those letters go anywhere other than into a computer system that just spits out a form letter back to them,” Rubio said in an interview with The Daily Caller after filming his first installment. “So part of it is I want people to know letters are being read, and it does have an impact on us.”
Rubio said the idea for “Marco’s Constituent Mail Box” is to pick letters that are typical of the volume of mail his office gets. (Huntsman preps all-or-nothing Florida campaign)
“So if we’re getting a lot of letters on a certain topic, we’ll pick one of them and we’ll use that as an opportunity to answer the question for a lot of people,” he explained.
Rubio said his staff gives him a folder of 20 or 30 letters every week or so that he reads.
“It gives me a sense of what’s on people’s minds, what people are talking about and those sorts of things,” he said.
Rubio denied that the weekly video segment is a political maneuver to let voters know that despite his rising national profile — and constant mentions as a plausible vice presidential pick in 2012 — his mind is still on the Sunshine State.
“I don’t know if there’s any calculation behind it other than the fact that someone in our office came up with this great idea about reaching back to constituents,” he said.
Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said the letters Rubio will read on video will not always be laudatory — instead, they will include “the good, the bad, the ugly.” The first letter Rubio read was from a resident who said he didn’t vote for him last year. (Boehner calls Obama ‘sorely mistaken’ on taxes)
Burgos said Rubio has averaged 25,000 constituent emails, letters and calls each week since February.
“Today, senators and congressmen have the chance to communicate with our voters and with our residents in ways that are predecessors never had,” Rubio explained before hopping on a Capitol subway back to his office. “And I want to take full advantage of that because the closer in touch I am with the real lives of people back home, the better senator I’m going to be.”