Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rubio and Romney

Oh, here’s a news flash:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Wednesday, becoming the latest big-name Republican to throw his support behind the likely Republican nominee.

He’s also trying to tamp down any speculation that he’s interested in being the vice presidential pick.

Rubio has steadfastly denied interest in joining the ticket, although political observers in Washington largely believe the senator is playing coy. Recent decisions to move the release of an autobiography to summer and expenditures by his political action committee to vet his past have GOP insiders predicting that Rubio is reading himself for a run.

Coy? He’s been about as coy as a hooker with a Visa card reader strapped to his leg.

I wonder how this bowing to the Great Inevitable is playing with Mr. Rubio’s Tea Party contingent that he so earnestly courted when he was running for the Senate in 2010. While it’s all well and good that he realizes that politics is the art of the compromise — as long as you don’t call it that — the folks in The Villages with their tri-corner hats and their “Keep Your Government Mitts Off My Medicare” signs won’t be happy with him selling out to the “Massachusetts Moderate.”

It’s also not a certainty that putting Mr. Rubio on the ticket would do the GOP that much good. It might make Florida more winnable, although polls indicate that President Obama is leading here, but it probably won’t bring in the Latino vote. Being Hispanic may be enough for the GOP establishment to think they’ve got a boost on that demographic, the Republican numbers with Latino voters stink so badly that they could nominate a cross between Carmen Miranda and Cesar Chavez and still lose.

Besides, while all Hispanics may look alike to the GOP leadership, there’s a difference between being Hispanic and being Cuban. Many Cubans, especially the remnants of the elite that got out of Havana while Fidel and his troops were coming in, don’t like being compared to other Spanish-speaking groups; they are not to be conflated with the chicanos in California or those “immigrants” from Puerto Rico. (I’ve actually heard a Cuban refer to them that way, which is ironic since Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.) And there is no love lost among a lot of other Hispanics for the Cubans. They see them as pushy and whiny, as if they were the only people in the world to come from a country with an oppressive regime in power. (It doesn’t help when the Cubans are also granted special status as immigrants and getting frontsies in line ahead of Haitians and anyone else landing on Key Biscayne.) So just because Marco Rubio has a vowel at the end of his name and likes cafecito doesn’t mean he’s going to get the votes for the ticket any more than if they chose Michele Bachmann to nail down the women’s vote.

As 2008 proved, the GOP has a problematic track record with choosing VP’s to shake up the election. So if he’s not Sarah Palin, is Marco Rubio the next Dan Quayle?