By Elaine de Valle, Voxxi
No, that is not a prediction of victory for President Barack Obama. I’m talking about how long U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, his Cuban-American constituency and Latino voters will have to wait to see the South Florida Republican on the ballot as a vice presidential nominee.
Let’s just call the last couple of months practice. Or promotion for his upcoming book tour.
Or branding, even. His profile has certainly been raised for a far more realistic attempt to vie for Vice President in 2016. Or, dare I say it, a shot at becoming the first Latino POTUS, maybe in 2020.
Rubio’s name has been batted around for months as a possible partner for the de facto Republican nominee Mitt Romney. And he’s been doing everything he can to look the part. From his foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institute in April to a long overdue trip last month to the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, to headlining the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual Latino economic summit to his many recent op-ed pieces, including Thursday’s Wall Street Journal column about Assad’s regime in Syria, Rubio has obviously put his public persona into high gear.
And, of course, he’s had time to stump for Mitt along the way.
But last week, Rubio, who critics have said is too inexperienced for the job (as if that were a legitimate reason to deny it), gave Romney his out. Upon his return from his fact-finding mission in Guantanamo, the Florida Republican had an impromptu press conference in front of microphones that were waiting for him to arrive in a U.S. Air Force plane at Miami International Airport. A Spanish-language TV reporter asked him if Rubio’s first flight to his family’s homeland was, perhaps, sort of a VP-in-training trip.
No, said Rubio. He said it was a long overdue visit he had postponed last summer after his mother fell ill. And then, without needing to, he added this, taking the perfect opportunity to give Romney the excuse he needs to cast el cubanito aside: “There are a lot of places I haven’t been to, a lot of places I still need to visit and get up to speed with before I have the same experience as some of my colleagues.”
That’s what you call gratuitous enabling: What I heard was, “Don’t worry, Mitt. I won’t take it personally.”
Not that the man some consider “the Great Hispanic Hope” was all that. Rubio — who is blasted even among his Sunshine State colleagues for always putting his image-building before his constituents — may have helped Romney take Florida. But few political observers think he would have had much muscle with Latinos in the other key states. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal nationwide poll found Romney way behind Obama among Hispanics voters by more than 30 points — 27 to 61 percent.
Frankly, I doubt the Republican party ever really seriously considered anyone named Rubio for the role of número dos. Many observers I’ve talked to say that for all its talk about Hispanic outreach, the Romney campaign has pretty much given up catching the majority of the Latino Vote. The outreach is more about limiting Hispanic reach to Obama. Maybe in addition to practice, promotion and branding, we can call the last few months subterfuge. Or another example ofhispandering.
Because by pretending to court a Hispanic partner, Romney and the Republicans generated a lot of talk about their potentially inclusive ticket. They engaged the Latino community early on in a way they may not have if there wasn’t the looming possibility that one of our own would work in the White House.
This article first appeared in Voxxi.
Miami-based writer and Voxxi Senior Editor Elaine de Valle is a veteran political and investigative journalist and former Miami Herald staff reporter with two team Pulitzer Prizes and an Emmy Award under her belt. She is the author of the blog Political Cortadito (www.politicalcortadito.com) in which she serves as a watchdog and sometimes writes as her alter ego, Ladra, who barks at the inequities, inefficiencies and malfeasance of government officials, political candidates and their campaign machinery. Her blog posts have broken news and have been followed by local and national media and, in January 2012, Political Cortadito was named one of the top 10 political blogs by Miami New Times.[Photo By U.S. Senate]