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Arkansas' 'Shining Star' Takes the Stage

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

TAMPA, Fla. - Tim Griffin is going places, and relatively fast.

He appears poised to run for statewide office - likely next cycle.

But on Tuesday, the freshman Congressman from the Little Rock-based 2nd district is on his way to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. He is sitting in the second row of a heavily air conditioned SUV.

Griffin appears a little antsy, and it's not the dozens of heavily armed police surrounding the car. He is about to be one of the very few freshman Members of the House to give a speech to the Republican National Convention.

Driving through one of a few security checkpoints to get to the arena, Griffin is asked whether he's nervous.

"I've never done anything like this before so ..." he says, before being interrupted.

"That means, 'yes,'" Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack (R) cracks from third row of seats, laughing.

"Yes," Griffin allows.

The SUV slowly makes its way to the VIP entrance and Griffin mutters to himself. "I shoulda had a glass of wine before this," he says.

With his wife, Womack, and Womack's wife at his side, Griffin steps out of the SUV on to a red carpet.

A security officer asks the entourage to stand in a hallway for a moment. Griffin reads over his speech. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) walks in behind them and Griffin shares the best lines of it with her, eliciting a chuckle.

Virginia state Del. Barbara Comstock walks into the hallway, and he greets her like an old friend.

Griffin only took his Congressional oath of office in 2011, but he's been involved in the highest levels of Republican politics for years.

Years ago, Griffin worked under Comstock at the Republican National Committee. He was the deputy research director. And he wasn't the only rising star on the research beat.

"Matt Rhoades was in the office with me and Barbara when we took over the office in '99 and we didn't know Matt," Griffin explains later, walking along the floor of the convention, noting Rhoades was really quiet. "We were thinking, you know, we probably will get rid of him because we didn't know him and we were cleaning house," Griffin says.

"Then he did some work and we were like, 'Wow, we're keeping this guy,'" he explains with a smile.

Rhoades is now, of course, the campaign manager for Mitt Romney.

Griffin moved up through the ranks in Washington, too. He went on to work as a special assistant to Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff. Later, Griffin went back to the RNC as a research director and deputy communications director before moving on to the Bush White House. Griffin, a JAG officer in the Army Reserves, served as a special assistant to the president and deputy director of political affairs, though spent a good chunk of his tenure overseas in Iraq.

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