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Opinion

Hispanics would not flock to Marco Rubio as a vice presidential pick

Take it from a Latino voter: The Great Hispanic Hope for the GOP – tea party darling Marco Rubio – is a false hope. Latinos vote issues, not ethnicity, and the junior senator from Florida is out of step on the issues, especially immigration.

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As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, he was dogged by allegations that he used his GOP credit card for personal expenses. In August, he spoke at the Reagan Library and set off a firestorm of criticism when he said that programs like Social Security “weakened us as a people.”

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He is feuding with Univision, the country’s largest Spanish-language television network, because he claims they pressed him for an exclusive interview – in exchange for dropping a story about his brother-in-law’s 1987 drug arrest. The network flatly denies it offered a quid-pro-quo. Rubio never appeared; the story about his brother-in-law was aired.

More recently, The Washington Post reported that Rubio’s family history is not what he has asserted as a politician. Although he has presented himself as the son of exiles who fled Castro, documents show that Rubio’s parents left Cuba nearly three years before the dictator came to power. Rubio maintains he was simply repeating family lore.

I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he has an awful lot of scandals for a newcomer to the national political scene. If I were a GOP bigwig, I would be worried about other skeletons that might emerge from the Rubio closet during a presidential campaign. 

Amid the talk of Rubio as a vice presidential candidate, I cannot help but recall the 2009 nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. This was a historic occasion that united nearly all Latinos, regardless of political affiliation. Nonetheless, Rubio penned an op-ed in Politico explaining that he could not support her nomination, explaining that a vote against her was not anti-Hispanic.

“Those of us of Hispanic descent don’t expect special treatment,” he wrote, “only the same treatment and same opportunities afforded to all Americans.”
I couldn’t agree more. Despite the hype, once we factor out Rubio’s ethnicity, he is simply a junior senator from Florida. The GOP contenders would be wise to select a more qualified running mate, because Rubio will not win over Hispanics by virtue of being “one of us.”

Nowadays, Latinos do not vote ethnicity, we vote policy – and the GOP ignores this reality at its own peril.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.

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