Will Tea Party Star Marco Rubio Get GOP VP Nod?

Play associated audio

Among the Tea Party successes in the 2010 congressional elections was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. He is now one of those on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's short list of possible running mates.

For any political party, Rubio would be worthy of consideration for vice president or a higher office. He's smart, good-looking and charismatic. The Cuban-American is a plus for Republicans, a party that polls show has been losing ground with Hispanics.

Rubio has been in the Senate less than two years, but while others across the country are still getting to know him, he has long been a familiar face to Floridians. Rubio served a decade in Florida's Legislature where he was House speaker — the first Cuban-American and youngest person ever to hold that office.

Like Barack Obama, another young, charismatic politician, Rubio is a quick study. One reason why respected Republican leaders from Jeb Bush to John McCain have touted him for vice president.

Despite that, the Romney campaign had to tamp down early reports that Rubio wasn't being vetted as a possible running mate. In an unusual announcement, Romney told reporters Rubio was under serious consideration.

Al Cardenas, former chairman of Florida's Republican Party, and now head of the American Conservative Union, recommended Rubio to the Romney campaign based on what he's seen at the group's CPAC gatherings, where the Florida senator has been a star.

"Most of the time, elections are decided by turnout, more so than by polling numbers," Cardenas says. "I believe that Marco's greatest gift to a Romney candidacy will be the passion amongst activists and the impact he'll have on the turnout."

In the Senate, Rubio has made some tough choices. As the body's only Hispanic Republican, he's stood with his party's leadership opposing a measure popular with Latinos: the DREAM Act. It's a bill that would create a path toward permanent residency for young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Rubio says the measure would encourage illegal immigration. In June, President Obama took administrative actions that essentially put in place much of the DREAM Act. Rubio accused him of playing politics with the issue.

As a Hispanic leader, Rubio has worked to carve out his own position on immigration. In his speech to the Hispanic Leadership Network, he said he believed there is bipartisan support for fixing what he calls a "broken legal immigration system."

"And that's why I challenge the Republican nominees and all Republicans to not just be the anti-illegal immigration party. That's not who we are. That's not who we should be. We should be the pro-legal immigration party," he said.

But so far, Rubio's attempts to find middle ground on immigration — one that wins approval from Hispanics but doesn't alienate his Republican base — have gained little traction.

And after nearly two years as a senator and national political figure, it's not clear how much Rubio could do to help Mitt Romney win support among Hispanics.

A survey conducted recently by Latino Decisions, an independent polling group, found that except in Florida, putting Rubio on the presidential ticket would do little to build Hispanic support.

As a politician still new to the national stage, Rubio carries baggage from his days in the Florida Legislature. He's had to address issues including his use of a party credit card for personal expenses. Rubio says he sometimes used the party credit card by mistake for personal items, but never billed the GOP.

Casey Klofstad, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami, says that could make him an awkward running mate for Romney.

"There have already been accusations of the governor [Romney] in terms of his dealings with Bain Capital, in terms of offshore accounts. Well, we've already got somebody who has money issues, if you want to call it that," says Klofstad. "Do we want to add a vice president who may have those as well?"

Among political analysts, the conventional wisdom suggests Romney is likely to go with a safe choice — a running mate who's tested and unlikely to bring any surprises. But Rubio remains an intriguing possibility because of what he represents for the Republican Party. At just 41 years old, Rubio has plenty of time yet to help shape the party's direction.

And in the here and now, some polls show putting Rubio on the ticket could add a couple of points to Romney's support in Florida — enough possibly to win the state in a close election.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

For Key And Peele, Biracial Roots Bestow Special Comedic 'Power'

Comics Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele satirize people of all races on their Comedy Central sketch show. Originally broadcast Nov. 20, 2013.
NPR

Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
NPR

Despite High Expectations, Sentencing Reform Proposals Still On Ice

Sen. John Cornyn suggested a hearing and markup on reform proposals could be imminent. But multiple sources tell NPR that concrete language is still being hotly debated behind closed doors.
NPR

WikiLeaks Docs Purport To Show The U.S. Spied On Japan's Government

The documents also allege that the U.S. targeted Japanese banks and companies, including Mitsubishi.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.