Why isn't Mitt Romney vetting Marco Rubio as a VP candidate?

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is not being vetted as part of the Romney campaign's vice-presidential search, a report from ABC News says. Is that a snub of the GOP's most prominent Latino?

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
In this April 23 file photo, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigning with Sen. Marco Rubio (l.), R-Fla., talks to reporters in Aston, Pa.

On Monday, we wondered if Mitt Romney's lack of support among Hispanic voters had become so glaring that he might have no choice but to put Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on the ticket with him.

On Tuesday, however, came this report from ABC News's Jonathan Karl: Senator Rubio isn't even being vetted. Mr. Karl writes: "He has not been asked to complete any questionnaires or been asked to turn over any financial documents typically required of potential vice presidential candidates."

On Intrade, the online prediction market, Rubio's odds of being on the ticket have plunged from about 21 percent Monday to just over 5 percent Tuesday.

Now, as the ABC News report goes on to say, this doesn't necessarily mean Rubio won't be vetted at some point in the future. And as MSNBC's First Read points out, at least two other much-talked-about potential candidates – Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels – have also recently acknowledged they have not yet been asked to turn over any paperwork. 

Still, why would the Romney campaign want it known that they are not currently vetting Rubio (assuming that this story has, in fact, come from the Romney campaign)?

First Read suggests it could be a way of quietly lowering expectations for Rubio, to pave the way for his not being chosen.

We suppose that could be a necessary move. Rubio has in some ways occupied an odd space this campaign season: He's been the most buzzed-about vice-presidential candidate almost from the get-go, yet he has not been seen as the actual favorite for some time.

He has obvious strengths – a charismatic speaker who hails from a key swing state and could put in play a voting bloc that Mr. Romney is clearly struggling to connect with. Still, lately, Washington insiders have tended to dismiss Rubio as a Sarah Palin-like choice. Too young, too flashy, with too many unknowns in his background that could prove problematic or even embarrassing.

But the risks of not even vetting – and thereby appearing to snub – the GOP's most prominent Latino seem awfully high.

On the other hand, the move may reflect a simple reality: Romney's path to the White House probably has less to do with improving his performance among Hispanics than with running up big numbers among white voters.

As National Journal's Ronald Brownstein recently wrote, polling suggests Romney could win by overperforming among whites (rather than by improving his share of the minority vote). He would essentially have to match Ronald Reagan's performance by winning two-thirds of working-class whites and men with college degrees – a tall order, but one that may, in fact, be doable. As Mr. Brownstein puts it: "all evidence suggests that it's not beyond Romney's reach."

This certainly isn't a long-term strategy for success, given demographic trends. But Romney isn't trying to put the GOP on a path to a permanent majority; he's just trying to win this election.

Which may explain why Romney is currently on a bus tour through the Rust Belt, campaigning with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, while Rubio is hawking his autobiography – and watching his veepstakes odds fizzle.   

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.