In a head scratching development, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is not being considered as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney. Romney has scoffed at those speculating on the selection process and Rubio has refused to comment on anything pertaining to the Vice Presidency. But if this report is true, Democrats should give a heavy sigh of relief.
Find out why below the jump. Marco Rubio has been the belle of the Republican ball for months, as GOP candidates and insiders have fawned over his potential as a Vice Presidential candidate. Jeb Bush has flatly called him his “favorite candidate.” When asked whom he liked for Vice President, John McCain was quick to answer with Rubio, although picking Vice Presidential candidates isn't exactly John McCain's strong suit. Understanding the GOP's drooling over Rubio isn't difficult. He is young, energetic, and Tea Party approved (all things that the top of the ticket is not). Furthermore, his popularity would be invaluable in flipping the swing state of Florida for Romney. But most tantalizing of course is his Latino ancestry, which they have hoped will remedy the remarkable gap Romney faces amongst Latino voters. An ABC poll this Spring showed Romney's Latino support to be as low as 26 percent, compared to 73 percent for the President. This is what comes with all that “self-deportation” nonsense he touted in the GOP Primary, and the President's recent immigration policy announcement only makes Romney's pleas to the Latino community more uphill and problematic.
Romney has certainly utilized Rubio's star power in the campaign, using him as the GOP's token Latino friend wherever possible. During the Florida Primary, Rubio came to Romney's defense when Newt Gingrich released a biting Spanish radio ad calling Romney “anti-immigrant.” The moment Rubio revealed his disapproval of the ad, the Gingrich camp announced they would be pulling it out of “respect for the senator's wishes.” Rubio's power to shut up Newt Gingrich shows that his influence, particularly in Florida, cannot be overstated.
So why not Rubio? At age 41, he has only served in the Senate for just over 17 months. The disaster that was the Sarah Palin selection has likely made Romney gun shy in choosing a risky running mate lacking adequate qualifications. Perhaps the Romney campaign is concerned that tapping Rubio would backfire and be seen as for the insulting political ploy that it is. President Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, told Univision that it would be an insult to the Hispanic community if Romney “thinks that's sort of a get-out-of-jail-free card for all of the things and the positions that he's taken.” Maybe so. But nevertheless, this is great news for Democrats. Rubio would have made Florida an almost inevitable victory for Romney, and could have closed the huge gaps in the allegiances of young people and Latinos. He would have brought energy and life into Romney's considerably uninspiring campaign. Ignoring the huge potential that Rubio brings to the ticket is an odd decision by the Romney camp, but should be welcomed with glee by the President and his supporters.
It is absolutely possible that Rubio refused the job. He likely saw Sarah Palin's implosion and decided to better prepare himself for the national spotlight. Rubio has repeatedly told reporters, “I will not be Vice President.” Either way, Romney simply cannot win the election while losing over 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, and his non-answers on immigration issues won't help close the gap. He, like McCain before him, needs a “game change”, and Marco Rubio might be all he has.
Update 5:26 PM: After a campaign event in Michigan, Romney told reporters, “Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process.” This is unsurprising. Romney had no choice but to calm Rubio supporters by assuring that he is getting a fair shake.