Rubio Rising

Common Sense is not yet willing to make any firm predictions about the Presidential race. While President Obama is vulnerable, he still has a better than even chance of being re-elected. He looks neither as weak as (the re-elected) Bill Clinton did at the same point in his presidency, nor as strong as (the defeated) George H W Bush. It is not yet clear whether or not the President will face a credible challenge in the primaries. Nor is it clear if the current field of Republican contenders will be joined by other game-changing figures, such as Sarah Palin or Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

Allow this column, however, to make one prediction. The Republican nominee for Vice-President will be Senator Marco Rubio.

Obviously, this is far from certain. We don’t even know who will be making the pick. One of the losing candidates in the presidential race – for example, Rep. Michele Bachmann – could perform well enough to earn a place on the ticket. But Rubio remains this column’s tip.

For one thing, he is a Senator, and there are no Senators among the leading contenders, though former Senator Rick Santorum is a bit part player in the contest. Rubio is also a southerner. With the disastrous implosion of Newt Gingrich’s campaign, and absent an entry by Perry, there are no southerners in the Republican contest. A Mid-Westerner – Romney is a native Michigander and Pawlenty and Bachmann are both from Minnesota – or Westerner – Jon Huntsman – might well want a Southern running mate.

Thirdly, as a Senator from Florida, Rubio represents a large, swing state. Only California and Texas have more clout in the Electoral College, and they are firmly Democratic and Republican respectively.

Fourthy, Rubio is a charismatic figure, with a strong following, especially among the Tea Party, with whom perceived moderates such as Romney, Pawlenty or Huntsman would wish to build links.

But the fifth point is probably the most significant. Rubio is Hispanic. This is a large and growing constituency. Unlike other ethnic minorities, the Hispanic vote is in play. There is no doubt that the nomination of Barack Obama enthused African-American voters, and somewhat boosted their turnout. But his vote percentage in this group was only marginally up on the 90% plus that is regularly won by the Democrats. His vote among Hispanics, however, was remarkable: beating McCain by 36 points, more than three times the margin won by John Kerry.

Hispanic voters are significant not only in Florida – no Democrat can carry the state without winning the Latino vote – but also in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, which all voted narrowly for Obama, having voted Bush in 2004. In Arizona – which Obama did not win, but would have strongly contested if favorite son, John McCain, had not been running – the Hispanic vote is important. These states would not be enough to give the Republicans victory, but would close the gap considerably. If Republican leaning states such as Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana are added in, only one of the Mid-Western swing states, such as Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa or Wisconsin would be needed to complete victory.

Rubio, in combination with either a Michigander or a Minnesotan could therefore form a powerful ticket. And that is the only prediction you will get from this column at this point.

Article provided by Quentin Langley
Lecturer in PR and Political Communications,
School of Journalism, Cardiff University

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