Yes, this column is based out of Florida, so it would seem that an opinion piece suggesting that Marco Rubio makes the most sense for vice president on the Republican side would normally appear to be "home cooking." But until recently, there have been plenty of reasons to believe that perhaps other names made more sense as a choice for Mitt Romney.
In the recent issue of Newsmax magazine, I am quoted as saying that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee would be the best choice for the GOP ticket. And in many ways he still would be a superlative choice. Huckabee brings warmth, experience in government and on the campaign trail, and a strong fiscal and social conservative resume to the table. But one seems to get the idea he truly loves his show on Fox News, and when someone really loves what they are doing, they just are not likely to send out the vibe that they want a new gig.
There are myriad other strong potential candidates to join Romney on a ticket. Chris Christie is just plain refreshing in his role as governor of New Jersey. He's a really big guy, with just as big of a personality to boot. But his size and bluntness work for him. He seems approachable and "one of us."
Then there are less talked about potential running mates, such as Texas U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. She could bring the power of having a woman on the ticket with loads of experience in high office.
But after watching Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida deal with the Washington media pros, and hearing him address the few inadvertent mistakes he has made regarding a mixup over Republican Party credit cards versus that of his own campaign, it becomes clear that he can handle the vultures. It causes one to realize that Florida's wonderful system of legislative term limits and choosing their House speaker well in advance of his or her two-year stint in that position forces political leaders to grow up quickly and learn how to perform in the big league early on.
Rubio was tea party before the philosophy was cool. His conservative beliefs are unimpeachable. Yet his youth and energy make it more likely that he will connect with the key voting demographic of those ages 40 to 55. This one segment of the voters more than any other will make up swing voters essential to a Republican win.
While much has been made out of Rubio's Hispanic-Latino heritage, that is the least of the reasons for which he should be chosen. Yes, he will energize the Cuban base of voters in Florida, a critical state, but it is up in the air as to how much that will translate to other Hispanic-Latinos, such as the strong Puerto Rican vote in some states, which usually goes solidly Democrat.
The strongest reason for choosing Rubio for vice president would be based on the 1960, razor-thin election of John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon. Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson not necessarily because Johnson was the closest to him in delegates at the 1960 convention, but more importantly because he could secure Texas in the November contest.
While Johnson was the "king of the U.S. Senate" in 1960, Rubio compares favorably in terms of skill sets and knowledge. Sen. Rubio has all of the acumen and ability to persuade that Johnson possessed, without the baggage and ham-fisted style of leadership for which Johnson was so well known.
As one examines the critical key swing states that will actually decide the contest this fall, it becomes clear that Romney must not only win Florida, but secure it early on in order to fight it out in states such as Ohio where the economy is improving and President Obama seems to have a chance of winning -- a win that would be fatal to the Romney campaign. By securing Florida, which most pundits believe would happen with Rubio on the ticket, Romney and Rubio could hit the road and the campaign could focus more time and effort on the other 11 critical swing states that will decide the election.
With Rubio energizing the conservative base of the Republican Party, which has grown in size in the past four years, turnout could expand for Romney. It's that extra sense of "energy" that one can feel in the air just days before an election that makes the difference between a win and a loss. While in the end Romney must win the race, he couldn't do much better than to have Marco Rubio at his side.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter @matttowery.
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