3:42 PM CDT, May 8, 2012
I was like, “You should predict who Romneywill choose to be his VP.”
And then I was like, “Why? That’s boring. And obvious."
So I was like, “Okay, great, why don’t you write about eating dogs some more or fantastical NBA trade scenarios that will never happen. Those seemed really popular given the number of Tweets you got from people calling you homophobic slurs.”
And I was like, “I know. Why are people so mean.”
And finally, I was like, “They’re just jealous. No more tears, baby… Oh, and it’s totally Marco Rubio.”
I’m right. I would bet almost anything that Mitt Romney will pick half-term senator Marco Rubio as his vice-presidential nominee. Like Romney himself, it’s inevitable. Rubio simply checks too many boxes.
The greatest danger in picking a VP nominee is what will be known as the “Palin Effect”: first rule, do no harm; second rule, do not pick a narcissistic, uninformed reality TV star. However, Romney will not overlearn this lesson either. Picking a boring white guy to stand beside a boring white guy would be an error of a lesser scale. This rules out Ohio Senator Rob Portman or Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Jeb Bush reminds us of his brother, and Paul Ryan is now responsible for the most radical document of wealth redistribution in a generation: a budget that aims to vacuum money and opportunity from the country’s working class to spray it with a garden hose over the wealthiest 1 percent. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is politically moderate and personally abrasive, while South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley hails from a solid red state.
While news of Romney’s pitiful standing among women has made Haley’s outside chance a little better, I still think smart money is on Rubio. The best argument against him—from CBS and Slate’s John Dickerson—still isn’t all that convincing. Barack Obama proved that Americans don’t actually care how long a candidate has been in office or any of the other nitpicky reasons prognosticators throw up as hurdles for Rubio.
Rubio is young and good-looking, he sounds intelligent, he’s Cuban, his baggage seems like it's already out there, and he has Tea Party sympathizers on his side after knocking off moderate Charlie Christ to win his seat. Romney sorely needs to strengthen his appeal to the right wing of the party, which never wanted to vote for him, and this is a quick shortcut. While it remains dubious that Rubio can actually attract Hispanic voters to a party whose main immigration policy initiatives seem to be racial profiling and mass deportations, having brown skin at least allows the Republican ticket a patina of progress.
Most importantly, however, Rubio comes from Florida, and Florida is a state Romney desperately needs to win if he wants any chance of taking the presidency. As everyone keeps pointing out, demographics have expanded the Democratic base into states like Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina that were easy Republican wins in 2000 and 2004. Even if Romney holds all those states, he could still lose, which is why he basically has to win Florida.
Of course, it doesn’t always follow that a vice-presidential pick necessarily wins you a state. You could argue that Al Gore perhaps, maybe helped Bill Clinton win Tennessee in ’92 and ’96, but outside of that, there’s not a whole lot of evidence to suggest the geographical roots of the VP nominee have much to do with winning electoral votes in the modern era. Nevertheless, Romney has to overcome some steep math and it starts with winning Florida. If Rubio can provide him a handful of votes to get him over the top in that state’s closely divided electorate, he’s worth it to the Romney campaign.
What's more interesting is how Rubio will aqcuit himself once on board. He has to understand that if Romney loses, it will immediately catapult him to the top of the list of contenders for 2016, which would make it in his best interest to come across as a reasonable character rather than a Palin-like Fox News attack dog. In fact, the best reason Romney has to not give Rubio the nod is that the bottom of the ticket might prove far more appealing than the top.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC