Rubio, O Rubio, wherefore art thou, Rubio?

Yes, it was hard to believe that Marco Rubio was not being vetted as a vice presidential possibility by Mitt Romney. Romney revealed that the Florida senator is under consideration and claimed that an ABC News report to the contrary was off-base. But today Rubio still isn’t talking.

Rubio has some obvious qualities that would make him an attractive pick. He is a young Latino from a state that Romney needs in his electoral column. At least one recent poll suggests that a Romney/Rubio ticket would even the playing field in the Sunshine State.

But that dream team ticket is not all that it seems. For several months, Rubio dangled the idea of proposing a conservative alternative to the DREAM Act, which would give children of undocumented aliens a pathway to citizenship.  Rubio’s plan never saw the light of day.  President Obama’s executive order giving a two-year stay from deportation to people under the age of 30 who were brought to the US illegally as children squashed any thoughts that Republicans may have had of using a Rubio plan as an election year talking point.

The widespread support for the White House executive order, especially from immigration advocates and Latino civic leaders, means that the Rubio proposal, whatever it was, will only be a dim memory for the Latino voters that Romney is trying desperately to court. Another poll of Latino voters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, and yes, Florida, found that 49 percent of those surveyed said the decision made it more likely for them to support the president.

There’s more bad news in the Electoral College. The Latino vote in key states such as Texas is growing and is trending Democratic, a big problem for the Republicans this year and going forward. Yet Team Romney seems to have bought into at least one component of what Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia calls the “ five myths” about Rubio: that his presence on the GOP ticket would attract Latino voters.

Cuban Americans like Rubio have tended not to view immigration issues as, say, Mexican Americans do. Roig-Franzia writes: “There are also lingering historical resentments between non-Cuban Latinos — approximately 96 percent of the U.S. Latino population — and Cubans, who receive preferential immigration treatment. Rubio has drawn a distinction, saying that he has ‘nothing against immigrants, but my parents are exiles.’”

His current and future national prospects have prodded Rubio to soften his image. Consider this excerpt from his conveniently timed autobiography-cum-campaign manifesto: “If my kids went to sleep hungry every night and my country didn’t give me an opportunity to feed them, there isn’t a law, no matter how restrictive, that would prevent me from coming here.” Some commentators suspect that Rubio may be nudging Romney to speak louder on immigration issues that he seems inclined to shy away from.

Speaking up about immigration won’t necessarily help Mitt Romney, however. He doesn’t support the DREAM Act, likes Arizona’s tough immigration laws (as does Rubio), and has talked about supporting harsher legislation that would force people to “self deport.”  Latino voters, and others who are concerned about a hardening of US immigration policies, are unlikely to forget any of that just because someone like Marco Rubio is on the Republican ticket.

                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY


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