Last night on The O’Reilly Factor, previewing Sen. Marco Rubio’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Fox News political analyst Karl Rove labeled Rubio “the American experience” and declared him “probably one of the best communicators since Ronald Reagan.”

Over-the-top praise of Rubio on the network is nothing new. Rubio’s increasingly prominent role in the national political conversation is thanks, in part, to the help of Fox News, which has served as his primary cheerleader since his 2010 Senate campaign. 

In recent weeks, Rove in particular has showered praise on Rubio and his role in the debate over immigration reform. His comparison of Rubio to Reagan on The O’Reilly Factor wasn’t even the first time he had done so on Fox’s airwaves this month; he made similar comments during a February 4 appearance on Special Report

Rove isn’t alone in his adoration of the Florida senator. Fox personalities have fawned over Rubio on-air for years, boosted his 2010 Florida Senate run (including helping him fundraise on-air), hosted him for dozens of primetime appearances on the network, and repeatedly touted him as an ideal vice presidential pick for former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

When Marco Rubio declared his intention to run for the Florida Senate seat left open by Mel Martinez, he trailed Gov. Charlie Crist — then still a Republican — by a huge margin and seemed like a longshot candidate.

Less than a year and a half later, Rubio was elected comfortably. According to Rubio, his meteoric rise in the race is thanks in no small part to Fox News political analyst Karl Rove.

Appearing at a fundraising breakfast for Rove’s Crossroads political groups at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Rubio claimed it was “big news” when Rove personally donated money to his Senate campaign because it meant that ”someone of his stature would actually take a bet on someone who was such a long shot.”

Rove’s help for Rubio extended well beyond sending personal checks; the Crossroads groups poured nearly $3 million (by Rove’s accounting) into the race. During his fundraising pitch for Crossroads at the RNC, Rubio specifically praised the ads Rove’s groups ran in his favor, saying “you would turn on the TV and there were ads that created a clear distinction, and did so in ways that were meaningful.”

Rove wasn’t the only Fox personality that helped Rubio’s Senate run — the network practically went all-in for him.

During his Senate run, Rubio was also formally endorsed — in addition to being praised on-air — by several Fox personalities, including former contributors Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Rick Santorum. In addition to endorsing Rubio, Fox host Mike Huckabee gave material support to his campaign in the form of a $5,000 donation from his political group, Huck PAC.

h/t: MMFA