Florida Senator Marco Rubio will probably not be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. “Knowledgeable Republican sources” have reported that the Republican vice presidential search team has not asked Rubio to fill out questionnaires or submit financial documents, hinting that he is not on a short list for Romney's potential running mate.
The fact that Rubio has not been vetted implies that the Romney campaign has not taken him seriously. While Rubio may not be perfect, it’s a mistake to ignore the young, energetic senator from a swing-state. The utter lack of consideration indicates that Romney’s campaign may not recognize that Rubio’s strengths are exactly those that the Republican presidential candidate needs to win this year's election.
Rubio would have influenced the Hispanic and Floridian vote. Election 2012 could very well be decided by Hispanic voters, as presidential campaigns and media outlets have recognized. Since Republicans tend alienate this crucial voting bloc, the Cuban-American senator may have been able to bring just enough support for the Republican presidential ticket. Hispanics may historically vote Democrat in majority, but the Cuban-American senator could have been able to mobilize enough Cuban voters in Florida. More so, Rubio could have potentially given Romney better chances in the crucial swing state of Florida.
Rubio is also young and energetic, qualities that would have enlivened Romney’s bland image. The 41-year old is a charismatic speaker and professes faith in the American Dream. Rubio is intelligent and articulate; he has responded rapidly and reasonably to Obama’s immigration policy, calling it a welcome short-term solution but one that is unable to address long-term problems — in fact Romney, who had been silent and vague on Obama’s policy, has resorted to echoing Rubio.
His solidly conservative viewpoints would have fired up the GOP and may have reduced Romney’s image as wishy-washy. Even before the presidential nominee had been secured, Republicans picked Rubio for VP. The so-called “crown prince” of the Tea Party movement is a socially conservative Roman Catholic against Roe v. Wade and same-sex marriage; he spoke out against raising the debt ceiling last summer and opposed the Obama stimulus. He has done more foreign travel than Obama did before he became president and tends to be hawkish in the foreign policy department. It’s true that the GOP would pick anyone to the right of the “socialist” Obama, but Rubio’s particular right-wing spirit has won admiration from Republicans such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and may have made Romney seem less like a flip-flopper.
To be sure, Rubio is not perfect. Having mostly local experience as a state politician, less than two years as a Senator, and no executive experience, Rubio may not be equipped to handle national issues. He criticizes the government debt, but has a shady personal finance record himself. Plus, as the Hispanic bloc is not homogeneous, the Cuban-American may affect only Cuban voters, which make up 4% of the Hispanic vote — Mexican-Americans, which make up the Hispanic majority, tend to favor Obama.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman may be a more strategic pick, as hails from a swing-state that has not suffered as much economically and may otherwise vote Obama.
With or without Rubio, Romney must recognize the Florida senator’s strengths as exactly those the presidential candidate lacks. The fact that the Romney campaign seems not to be taking Rubio seriously reflects some misunderstanding about what Romney needs to find in a VP candidate: youth, charisma, ethnic diversity, and decisive opinions on policy.