Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he could see Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate. And logistically, some political analysts say, adding Senator Rubio to the GOP ticket might be a smart move for Trump.
In an interview with USA Today’s Kristen Powers Thursday, Mr. Trump hypothesized on potential vice president candidates.
“Yes. I like Marco Rubio. Yeah. I could,” Trump tells Powers, when asked if he could see himself appointing Rubio to a position in his cabinet. “There are people I have in mind in terms of vice president. I just haven’t told anybody names…. I do like Marco. I do like [John] Kasich…. I like [Scott] Walker actually in a lot of ways. I hit him very hard…. But I’ve always liked him. There are people I like, but I don’t think they like me because I have hit them hard.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tells the Associated Press that even imagining himself as Trump’s running mate is shocking. “I can’t even fathom” being Trump’s vice president, says Governor Walker. “It’s almost breathtaking.” And Ohio Governor Kasich – who remains in the presidential race himself as a distant third – is still adamant that “I’m not going to be anyone’s vice president.” So that leaves Rubio.
That’s not to say that Rubio is a last-resort option. In fact, Rubio might make the most sense for Trump considering that the senator, who suspended his campaign in March, is still in third place among Republican presidential candidates. Some also speculate that the son of Cuban immigrants might be able to help Trump with his "Hispanic problem."
Despite having stopped campaigning March 15 after an embarrassing defeat in his home state of Florida, Rubio still has more delegates than Kasich. With 171 delegates, Rubio is in third place behind Trump’s 742 and Sen. Ted Cruz’s 529. Kasich trails in fourth place with 143 delegates. And Rubio says he plans to keep his delegates, implying that his bid for presidency remains alive.
“It is my desire at this time that the delegates allocated to me by your rules remain bound to vote for me on at least the first nominating ballot at the National Convention,” Rubio wrote to party leaders in Alaska, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia, assuring them that he did “not intend to release any National Convention Delegates bound to me as a result of the 2015 delegate selection process that took place in your State.”
So if Trump fails to win 1,237 delegates before the Republican Convention in July, a contested convention could occur and delegates previously "bound" to Trump would be released and would then be free to support any candidate. And this would spell trouble for Trump because any candidate – especially one with an already sizable number of delegates – is fair game for the presidential nomination. But if Rubio endorsed another candidate (by accepting a VP nomination) his 171 delegates would be free to transfer their votes from Rubio to, say, the Trump-Rubio ticket.
Along with helping Trump in the delegate game, Rubio could boost the frontrunner’s abysmal ratings among Hispanic voters. According to a Gallup poll from last month, 77 percent of Hispanic voters view Trump unfavorably, compared with only 12 percent who view him favorably. Given that Trump has characterized Mexicans as drug traffickers and rapists, called for a giant wall to be constructed along the US-Mexico border (which Mexico would pay for), and advocated for immediate deportations of all unauthorized immigrants, his poor standing with Hispanic voters is unsurprising.
Rubio, on the other hand, is the son of Cuban immigrants and a favored Republican candidate among Hispanics. With a favorability rating of 32 percent among all Latinos, Rubio leads both Cruz, whose father is also from Cuba, and Kasich, who have 26 and 15 percent favorability ratings respectively. And among Hispanic Republicans exclusively, Rubio leads Cruz, Kasich, and Trump with a 53 percent favorability rating.
With a record 27.3 million eligible Latino voters in the 2016 presidential election, Trump can’t afford to ignore this demographic. While Trump decisively won Rubio’s home state of Florida, Rubio won among Hispanic voters in Florida earning 40 percent of the Hispanic Republican vote.
"Sen. Rubio should be on the shortlist of VP candidates," Al Cardenas, former head of the American Conservative Union, tells the Washington Times. "He may be looking to another cycle and interested in making friends more than making enemies."