In the flurry of rumors, leaks and speculative punditry surrounding the GOP veepstakes, Marco Rubio has consistently been listed among the top five potential contenders. Long considered a prime VP candidate, interest in the potentials and pitfalls of a hypothetical Romney-Rubio ticket has risen following Romney’s statement last month that the junior senator from Florida is being seriously considered for the position.
It is easy to see why Rubio would be considered by the Romney camp. At 41, the senator has decent political credentials and massive electoral appeal. In 2000, Rubio was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. In 2006, Rubio became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House, a position he used to launch a massive and disastrous overhaul of the Florida tax system. As speaker, Rubio’s vehement critiques of federal spending and Obama’s stimulus plans earned him the attention of national conservative groups. Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010 on the wave of Tea Party support that brought many far-right-wing Republicans to power across the country. His victory in the bitterly divided three-way race between Democrat Kendrick Meek and former Governor Charlie Crist cemented his position as one of the Tea Party’s brightest young stars.
On paper, Marco Rubio seems like an ideal running mate for a Republican presidential campaign desperately attempting to broaden its appeal and electoral support. Rubio is young, energetic and possesses the charisma and raw stage presence that Romney lacks. Besides Rubio’s obvious potential for consolidating and energizing Tea Party support for Romney, many commentators also believe that Rubio could increase Romney’s staggeringly low appeal among Hispanic voters. Placing Rubio in the VP slot could also deliver Florida’s coveted 29 electoral votes to the Republican ticket.
Unfortunately for Romney, these supposed benefits are unlikely to materialize from a partnership with Rubio. Despite his status as one of the GOP’s rising stars, Rubio’s short time at the national level hasn’t granted him the kind of name recognition enjoyed by other VP hopefuls. Rubio’s record as a state representative is also full of minor violations that could impede the Romney campaign. It is also very unlikely that having Rubio on the ticket would increase Romney’s standing with Hispanic voters. Hispanic voters are going to care more about the issues than who is on the ticket. Rubio has been more willing than most Republicans to compromise on the DREAM Act and other immigration reforms, but any potential that his record might have of appealing to Hispanic voters is heavily offset by Romney’s strong anti-immigration stance.
The best reason for selecting Rubio would be to help secure Florida, but even this is an unlikely scenario. Rubio won his Senate bid with roughly 48% of the vote. Although Rubio won the election, a majority of Floridians voted against him just two years ago. In his short time as senator, Rubio has done little to make a name for himself or bring back any benefits to Florida that would increase his approval. A string of new polls shows that support for Romney in the sunshine state actually diminishes if Rubio was on the ticket. Although I personally think that Romney will likely win Florida anyway, with or without Rubio, it is clear that Rubio is incapable of bringing the Republicans a decisive edge in the state.
Rubio would do little to help Romney’s chances of getting elected in November, and it seems like both politicians know this. Although Romney claims that Rubio is under serious consideration, most indicators suggest that he has someone else in mind. Rubio has appeared once on the campaign trail in the last three months. In contrast, VP candidates such as Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty have maintained a frequent presence in Romney campaign events and fundraisers. It also seems to me that Rubio wants the national attention of the veepstakes more than the position its self. Rubio wants to be president. He wants to be president really bad. You don’t write an autobiography entitled “An American Son” unless you’re trying really hard to be president. From Rubio’s point of view, gambling his promising career on the fumbling, flip-flopping, gaffe-prone Romney campaign is probably a risky bet.