Mr. Rubio, a Republican who would eventually become a candidate for president, expressed a common desire: “To be on the same page as his wife,” Mr. Romero recalled. In a playful nod to that quest, the Rubios wore rival T-shirts. “Mr. Right,” read his. “Mrs. Always Right,” declared hers.
Their participation in the 2014 retreat in Maui embodied powerful, recurring themes in their lives: a Christian faith that infuses almost every aspect of their relationship and Mrs. Rubio’s determination to create a haven of family amid the chaotic and hypercompetitive world that Mr. Rubio inhabits.
Friends describe Mrs. Rubio, who met the future lawmaker when both were teenagers, as a pivotal figure in his evolution — a grounding, disciplined and at times corrective influence who in many ways ushered Mr. Rubio into adulthood.
She was the rare spouse who regularly traveled from South Florida to the state’s remote capital, Tallahassee, when Mr. Rubio was a state representative, reminding him of obligations to family in a city where late-night deal making and drinking were common.
“It was refreshing,” said State Representative Dennis K. Baxley, a friend and colleague who frequently spotted the Rubios’ children inside the legislative offices.
When her husband ran for the United States Senate in 2010, Mrs. Rubio communicated a message to his staff: Whenever humanly possible, his travel schedule should bring him home at night for family time, aides recalled.
And her social conservatism, friends and colleagues said, has deepened Mr. Rubio’s own: Many of them detect Mrs. Rubio’s influence on her husband’s outspoken opposition to abortion in almost all cases, a potential lure for Republicans in a primary but a liability in a general election against a Democrat.
“She has been a big force for good in his life,” said Nelson Diaz, a former aide to Mr. Rubio in the Florida Legislature who remains close to the couple. “She has helped make Marco who he is.”
Mrs. Rubio, a 42-year-old mother of four school-age children, who attends weekly Bible studies and works for a wealthy donor to her husband’s presidential campaign, has long bristled at the popular description of herself as a bubbly former cheerleader who married the star of her high school’s football team.
In reality, she never really fit that description. Her stint as a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins, a job that required grueling tryouts, practice sessions four nights a week and strict weight monitoring, lasted just a year. And Mrs. Rubio, who joined the team at the suggestion of her sister, already a Dolphins cheerleader, avoided the hard-partying temptations of the profession. Few were surprised when she decided to leave the squad.
“She wasn’t that cheerleader type,” said Natalie Vickers, who was on the team with her in 1997. “She was more introverted than 95 percent of the team.”
Mr. Rubio’s campaign declined to make either Mr. or Mrs. Rubio available for an interview, and has asked many close relatives not to speak with the news media. But more than 20 people who know the couple spoke about Mrs. Rubio in interviews over the past month.
Politics, friends said, was something that Mrs. Rubio tolerated but never relished. As its tentacles reached deeper into her life, starting in the late 1990s, she sought to tame it with firm boundaries and clear expectations for her role. (Election Day appearances? Fine. Speeches? No.)
Her mother had divorced twice before Jeanette Dousdebes was 18, a searing experience that friends said left her fiercely protective of her own nuclear family. Online scrapbooks, designed by Mrs. Rubio over the years, pay tribute to motherhood and sisterhood. “Children,” read one, featuring a photo of her oldest daughter, “are the flowers in God’s garden.”
Her mother, who owns a small transportation business, and her father, who worked at a printing company and did fumigation work, emigrated from Colombia. They enrolled Jeanette in South Miami Senior High School, Mr. Rubio’s alma mater. Mr. Rubio (class of 1989) met his future wife (class of 1993) at the home of a classmate, and they dated throughout his college years. After they were married in 1998, Mrs. Rubio became pregnant and left the International Fine Arts College, now Miami International University of Art & Design, without a degree.
By Mr. Rubio’s own admission, his escalating ambitions — first for local office, then the State Legislature, eventually the Senate — have repeatedly clashed with his wife’s yearning for simplicity.
“My political career,” he once wrote, “had deprived her of the settled, predictable family life she longed for.”
When Mr. Rubio was asked to help oversee the South Florida operations of Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996, his future wife bluntly confronted him about the long hours and constant travel.
“It feels like you’re cheating on me,” she told him. (His mistress, he wrote: politics.)
Despite her early misgivings, she has carved out a role in his campaigns as a gatekeeper and moral compass. Longtime associates who felt marginalized during Mr. Rubio’s Senate race at times called on Mrs. Rubio to help navigate a candidacy that was increasingly overseen by out-of-town professionals, according to former campaign staff members.
In a political world that can be transactional, she prizes loyalty: In 2012, at a time when Mr. Rubio faced pressure to distance himself from then-Representative David Rivera, a longtime friend and ally who faced multiple investigations into his political activities, Mrs. Rubio defiantly showed up at a polling station outside Miami, without her husband, to campaign for Mr. Rivera’s re-election.
In several cases, her passions have become Senator Rubio’s causes. After learning about the depth of the youth sex trade in Florida, Mrs. Rubio pushed her husband to confront the issue in the Senate, where he co-sponsored legislation to protect victims and crack down on the secret networks.
“She was bringing their clout and weight, and all their old friends, to bear on this,” said Claudia C. Kitchens, the executive director of Kristi House, a Miami group that fights childhood sex abuse. Mrs. Rubio, she said, brought her husband to the shelter. “She wanted to make him understand,” Ms. Kitchens said.
Mrs. Rubio has built her schedule largely around her children, who range from 8 to 15 years old, shuttling them to school and sporting events. One afternoon last spring, she stood watch outside the family’s home in West Miami, leaning against the bumper of her S.U.V. as one of her daughters ran laps up and down the street.
But she has a found a new career in midlife. Shortly after Mr. Rubio was elected to the Senate in late 2010, Mrs. Rubio started working for Norman Braman, a billionaire auto dealer in Miami who has long nurtured Mr. Rubio’s career with advice, financial support and campaign contributions. It was an eyebrow-raising arrangement: Until Mr. Rubio was sworn in as a senator, Mr. Braman had employed him as a lawyer, making the politically active auto magnate an unusually powerful financial force in the Rubios’ lives.
The part-time position, which pays her about $54,000 a year, involves researching and vetting nonprofit groups that seek donations from Mr. Braman’s charitable foundation, and has given Mrs. Rubio new prominence and clout in South Florida.
The leaders of Lotus House, a women’s shelter in Miami that receives funding from the Braman Foundation, recalled their delight when Mrs. Rubio helped arrange for Ann Scott, the wife of Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, to visit their offices.
“I see her as a good-will ambassador,” said Constance Collins, the executive director of Lotus House. “She provides vital linkages and help. She doesn’t just pass out money.”
As Mr. Rubio settled into the Senate, he seriously weighed relocating his family to Washington to avoid long absences from home, even putting the family’s West Miami house on the market. But Mrs. Rubio was never enthusiastic about the move, three friends said, the house did not sell and the couple ultimately decided against leaving South Florida.
These days, Mr. and Mrs. Rubio steal away for regular date nights and occasional vacations without their children, like the Christian retreat in Maui, which the Rubios took with a group of close friends in May 2014. (A popular speaker and pastor named Gary Chapmanheld court on “keeping emotional love alive in a relationship,” asking couples to take an online quiz to better understand what he called their “love languages.”)
During that trip, held by an organization called Love Song Couples Getaway, Mr. Rubio confided his reservations about running for president to Aaron Amuchastegui, a guest who struck up a conversation with the senator during a break between seminars.
“The downside,” he said Mr. Rubio had told him, mentioning his wife, “is that it will be a lot more difficult for me to attend very personal things like this.”
Mrs. Rubio remains a rare presence on the campaign trail. When Mr. Rubio declared his candidacy eight months ago, Mrs. Rubio accompanied her husband onstage, held the hands of her youngest children, waved to the crowd, then receded into the background.
But back in West Miami, friends said, she is waiting once again. And when he returns from the latest trip to Iowa or New Hampshire, she is prepared to puncture a political ego fed by adoring crowds and loyal aides, just as she did when he began ascending the ladder of Florida government.
“Oh, here comes the speaker,” she liked to tease him in front of friends during his tenure running the Florida House, according to those who heard her.
He welcomes and even invites the treatment. As he prepared to step down as the House speaker in 2008, Mr. Rubio delivered a telling tribute to his wife from the floor of the Legislature.
“Surround yourself with people that will tell you you are a fool and that you are acting like a fool,” he advised them. “Jeanette does that a lot, by the way.”