With the Romney campaign weaving a narrative of inevitability despite the neck and neck, stunning statistical tie with Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, the talk in some circles is shifting to who might be Governor Romney’s running mate.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is predicting that it will be Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post is also suggesting that Senator Rubio would be what Romney needs to cruise to victory in November.
But, there is some evidence suggesting that Rubio really wouldn’t be a good pick strategically – especially if the GOP is looking toward the junior senator from Florida to help pick up some of the Latino vote.
Marco Rubio probably wouldn’t do well with non-Cuban Latinos nationally. In the 2010 campaign for Senate, Rubio did not win the non-Cuban Latino vote in his home state. While Rubio was able to win a whopping 78% of the Cuban Latino vote in Florida in 2010, he was only able to secure 40% of the non-Cuban Latino vote. Cuban Americans constitute a smaller portion of the electorate than do Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans. However, it should be noted that Cuban Americans tend to turn out in higher percentages than other Latinos, with their influence concentrated primarily in South Florida. Romney would need to appeal to Mexican Americans and other Latinos whose populations are growing in the South, Southwest and in the Midwest.
On immigration, one of the issues that the GOP needs help in appealing to Latino voters, Marco Rubio doesn’t distinguish himself much from the aggressive rhetoric of Mitt Romney. Rubio’s opposition to the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented youth a pathway to citizenship if they complete college or military service, is a position that is at odds with most Latino voters. Just a few days ago, Romney announced that he would veto the DREAM Act as President if the once solidly bipartisan bill passed through Congress.
Rubio recently co-sponsored an E-Verify bill that would require all employers to use a database background check for prospective employees. Latino voters would likely be looking toward a VP candidate on the GOP side who would provide some nuanced perspective to this complex issue especially given President Obama’s own aggressive record on deportations. Nuance isn’t what Rubio would bring to the Romney campaign.
One area where Romney is perceived to be weak amongst the GOP faithful is in religious beliefs. As a Mormon candidate, some evangelicals within the Republican Party have expressed reluctance on supporting his candidacy. Robert Reich’s piece mentioned that Marco Rubio is “an evangelical Christian committed to reducing taxes and shrinking government,” but Rubio’s own religious identification has been the subject of debate, with his campaign in 2010 insisting that he was a Catholic despite affiliations with a non-denominational Florida church. Romney needs to win over the religious right especially given his inconsistent record on issues like abortion. Rubio’s religious fence straddling may leave some of the more devout members of the GOP who have stronger ties to their churches looking for someone who is unapologetically evangelical.
While photogenic, young, and eloquent, Senator Rubio really doesn’t enhance Mitt Romney’s candidacy in a way that would broaden his appeal within the GOP. Rubio’s appeal for now is more regional, and he doesn’t bring the larger Latino electorate with him.
Governor Romney may benefit more from someone who has been consistently conservative on the national scene and who has an appeal with Western and Midwestern voters, especially since President Obama and the Democrats will invest a lot in states like Colorado, Nevada and, possibly even, Arizona.