Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) — With Newt Gingrich’s surge, the Republican presidential race is more uncertain than ever. But the party’s pick for vice president has for months seemed like a foregone conclusion.
Although he claims to have no interest in the job, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is still the most likely VP choice for any Republican nominee, especially Gingrich, who has mentioned Rubio specifically.
Rubio is young, bright, handsome and from a critical swing state that he carried in 2010 by nearly 20 points. Most important, he’s Hispanic. He doesn’t have to help Republicans win Hispanics outright, but merely cut into the Democrats’ mammoth advantage. The Obama campaign knows that if the president, who won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, can be held below 60 percent this time, he’s almost sure to lose.
But in truth, Rubio is not the ideal vice-presidential candidate to solve Republicans’ trouble with Hispanics. Cuban- Americans have a big voice in Florida politics (where they already vote Republican) but make up only 4 percent of Hispanics nationwide. Mexican-Americans make up 66 percent of Hispanics, and tapping their potential at the polls may determine the results in swing states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
There’s no evidence that a Cuban-American who opposes even the DREAM Act (which would create a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who finish high school and join the military or attend college) will bring other Hispanics out to vote or get them to switch parties.
A better option for Republicans might be New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, but party operatives tell me that after Sarah Palin they aren’t likely to bet again on a new and obscure female governor.
So Rubio sits atop the short list. This should have Republicans worried, and not just because Rubio arrived in the Senate less than a year ago and carries the risks of any rookie. He’s been scuffed up in two flaps this year that highlight the complexities of being a minority of an ethnic minority in a party that’s shooting itself in the foot with minorities.