Rom­ney-ru­bio tango dis­plays early mis­steps

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio, the Span­ish-speak­ing son of Cuban im­mi­grants and a ris­ing star in the Repub­li­can ranks, is gen­er­at­ing more ex­cite­ment and con­tro­versy — and po­ten­tially some hard feel­ings — inside the party than likely GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney has been able to cre­ate this year.

But while many in the party see Mr. Ru­bio as an ideal run­ning mate for Mr. Rom­ney in a year in which both the His­panic vote and the se­na­tor’s home state could prove cru­cial, the dance be­tween the two men on whether Mr. Ru­bio is or isn’t in the run­ning has proved un­usu­ally awk­ward in the early stages. Rarely has such con­fu­sion and dis­agree­ment at­tended a po­ten­tial vice pres­i­den­tial pick.

“This has been han­dled clum­sily enough to raise ques­tions at a time when Rom­ney doesn’t need it,” said John Zogby, who con­ducts polls for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

There are ques­tions sur­round­ing the first-term se­na­tor — in­clud­ing re­ports of per­sonal fi­nan­cial trou­bles in the past — but the press leaks last week that the Rom­ney camp wasn’t even vet­ting Mr. Ru­bio for the job — de­nied im­me­di­ately by the can­di­date — and that the se­na­tor had been “ex­cluded” from a Rom­ney re­treat in Utah this week­end only added to the im­age of con­fu­sion.

“The Rom­ney camp is miss- ing the point that what­ever is­sues may come with Ru­bio — his per­sonal fi­nan­cial debt in par­tic­u­lar — they pale in com­par­i­son to the hit [the cam­paign] took this week with His­panic vot­ers and the fact that Ru­bio would lock down the ex­tremely ex­pen­sive TV multimedia mar­ket of Florida,” said GOP poll­ster Matt Tow­ery.

Louisiana GOP Chair­man Roger Villere said the Rom­ney cam­paign could not have erred so badly as to pur­posely in­sult Mr. Ru­bio and his ad­mir­ers by let­ting it be known about his not be­ing vet­ted and not be­ing in­vited to the re­treat.

“I think Rom­ney is just try­ing to slow down the Ru­bio train,” said Mr. Villere. “I don’t think he took him off the track yet.”

Mr. Tow­ery, how­ever, noted that this “is a year the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee must lock down some­thing sub­stan­tive, like a big swing state, with the VP nom­i­nee.”

The re­treat sto­ries re­in­forced the im­age of con­fu­sion.

A raft of po­ten­tial run­ning mates did get in­vited to the re­treat at a Utah re­sort, in­clud­ing Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal, former Min­nesota Gov. Tim Paw­lenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Port­man, former Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice, Wis­con­sin Rep. Paul Ryan and South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

Ap­par­ently taken by sur­prise by the no-vet­ting/no-in­vite sto­ries, the Rom­ney cam­paign took the highly un­usual step of hav­ing the nom­i­nee him­self an­nounce that Sen. Ru­bio was, in­deed, be­ing se­ri­ously con­sid­ered for the ticket. And a Rom­ney cam­paign spokes­woman said, “He was in­vited to our re­treat — just couldn’t make it due to sched­ul­ing.”

Mr. Ru­bio, who has tried to play down sto­ries of con­flict or lack of co­or­di­na­tion with Mr. Rom­ney, was at it again on June 21, telling re­porters he was skip­ping the re­treat for fam­ily rea­sons.

“If I had gone to Utah, I wouldn’t have seen my kids for 15 days,’’ he said at a break­fast spon­sored by the Christian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor. “And so I had a choice to make and I chose my kids.”

A strate­gist close to the Rom­ney cam­paign sus­pects Mr. Ru­bio may al­ready be the cho­sen one and the Rom­ney cam­paign is ma­nip­u­lat­ing the press into be­liev­ing oth­er­wise and get­ting Mr. Ru­bio even higher name recog­ni­tion in the process.

“You look at all those sup­pos­edly vice-pres­i­den­tial short­list in­vi­tees and not one, ex­cept maybe for Rob Port­man, would bring enough to the ticket for Mitt to pick him,” said this Repub­li­can, who has ties to the cam­paign.

But some in­flu­en­tial Repub­li­cans said there were sub­stan­tive and prac­ti­cal rea­sons why Mr. Rom­ney should look else­where for a run­ning mate.

“Rom­ney will need to have con­trol of the House and the Se­nate to right this econ­omy,” said Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Vice Pres­i­dent Ruth Ul­rich. “I would think Sen. Ru­bio would be much more valu­able where he is. That is what is nice about build­ing a strong farm team.”

And some even sug­gest Mr. Ru­bio him­self, look­ing at poor track records of past vice pres­i­dents who later made a run for the Oval Of­fice, may rec­og­nize a call from Mr. Rom­ney is not in his best long-term po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.

Said GOP strate­gist Paul Erick­son, “The road from Ob­ser­va­tory Hill [the of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton res­i­dence of the vice pres­i­dent] to the White House is lined with the corpses of vice pres­i­dents who ig­nored his­tory.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney (right), cam­paign­ing with Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida talks to re­por ters in As­ton, Pa., in April. As Mr. Rom­ney pon­ders pick­ing a run­ning mate, he has stated that Mr. Ru­bio, the son of Cuban im­mi­grants, is be­ing con­sid­ered for the ticket. But the first-term se­na­tor has been pub­licly non­com­mit­tal.

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