Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Now that Mitt Romney is merely waiting for anointing, so to speak, as the official presidential candidate of the USA’s Republican Party, the punditocracy has turned its fevered attention to the person Romney will appoint as his vice presidential running mate. While his selection process will surely be more thorough and rigorous than was John McCain’s disastrous choice in 2008—and it certainly couldn’t be any worse—it will, of course, ultimately come down to who can help Romney the most. For that reason alone, I’m extremely doubtful that he will pick the current fave of the punditocracy, first-term US Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. He simply has too many things going against him.

Rubio is often called the “crown prince” of the teabbagger movement. Indeed, it was his appeal to teabaggers that helped him push former frontrunner Charlie Crist from the Republican US Senate nomination campaign in 2010. This appeal was important in 2010, and is still important to Republicans, but to win in November, Romney needs to appeal to independents and even some Democrats, and those are not teabaggers. To forge a majority, Romney will need to pull back from the rightwing without totally alienating his rightwing Republican base. Appealing to teabaggers pleases the base, but would alienate the majority.

The one aspect of the Republican base Romney clearly has the most trouble with is the religious faction, all of whom are fundamentalist (whether catholic or protestant). Many rightwing protestants in particular distrust Romney specifically because he’s a Mormon. In fact, many in the majority do, too—it’s dishonest to say otherwise. Rubio’s family attended a Mormon church for three years during his childhood; even though he later had his catholic first communion and confirmation and was also married in the Roman church, for many fundamentalist protestants, this makes Rubio untrustworthy, too (not aided by the fact many of them aren’t too keen on Catholics, either).

Rubio’s record plays into the Republicans’ problem with women. Rubio sponsored an amendment to restrict health coverage of contraception based on religious or moral grounds of an employer/group provider. While his amendment didn’t pass, it’s nevertheless part of the Republicans’ “war on women”, a group that Romney is desperately behind with already.

Rubio’s character questions will come back to haunt him. On the campaign trail, he claimed his parents were “exiles”, forced to leave Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. In fact, they left in 1956 for economic reasons. Rubio dismissed the criticism, and it apparently was ignored by the community of real Cuban exiles Florida, but mainstream voters may see this as a character flaw.

Also, while Rubio was Florida’s Speaker of the House, he shared a house with another legislator. They owned the house together, but it went into foreclosure after months of non-payment of the mortgage. The Rubio campaign dismissed that saying the matter was settled, but if a high-profile politician like Rubio, paid very well, can decide to just not pay his mortgage when he clearly could, then that, too, raises character questions.

On the other hand, there are ways Romney could spin much of this to his advantage. For example, apart from rhetoric, Rubio has actually done little to advance the teabagger cause, and has done almost nothing at all as a US Senator. This would give Romney some wiggle room in downplaying the parts of Rubio’s record that mainstream voters might find scary. The character questions would be dealt with in the normal Karl Rove style Romney’s been using, that is, he would attack President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on character issues (the rule is, attack your opponent on what are your own weakest points, thereby transforming your weakness into strength).

Romney might also be tempted to pick Rubio because he’s trailing President Obama among Hispanic voters by a 2-to-1 margin. The problem with that is that Hispanics don’t all vote alike and they’re certainly not stupid: They won’t vote for Romney just because he picked a Hispanic—especially one with a dubious record and questions about his character.

So, on balance, I doubt that Romney will pick Rubio. If he does, however, it would be for one reason alone: Pure politics. Like McCain before him, it would mean selecting a largely unknown and unqualified candidate as a political gamble to get attention. If so, then I hope it works as well for him as it did for McCain in 2008.


d said...

I think you'll find this funny:



Roger Owen Green said...

I'm just not thinking Rubio.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

D: Yes, I always find Jon Stewart funny on his show. Oddly, your comment ended up in my spam queue!

Roger: I don't get the Rubio Obsession. Although, he does often remind me of potatoe boy—what's his name? Oh yeah, Dan Quayle.

d said...

ha! Probably due to the link.