The talking heads on Fox News Special Report last Friday concurred that Marco Rubio will be on the Republican ticket next year as the vice presidential nominee. I agree. There is virtually no down side to Rubio and the advantages to the ticket are prohibitive. He is youthful, attractive and articulate. Rubio won a tough three-way race in Florida last year. His life story is compelling as the child of Cuban parents who worked up the hard and legal way. His conservatism on social and economic issues is unwavering. Rubio is slightly too young and inexperienced to run as president, but eight years as vice president would make him ideal presidential timber.
If Senator Rubio becomes the running mate of Governor Perry, which I believe is increasingly likely, President Obama could face his worst electoral nightmare. At the outset, both men are excellent campaigners– articulate, likeable, attractive, and accustomed to winning elections in the diverse and large populations of Texas and Florida. Unlike Republican nominees since Reagan, Rick Perry knows how to work crowds. Perry, like Rubio, has never lost a political race. Although it is a relatively small section of his resume, his time successfully selling bible references door to door may be as important as background in running for president.
Both Perry and Rubio have life stories which demonstrate that the American Dream really works. Perry grew up on a cotton tenant fair in the middle of nowhere and worked hard for every step in his path to success. Rubio’s parents worked in menial jobs so that their son could have a better life. Imagine Rubio campaigning in Las Vegas, where his parents worked like so many Hispanics today, cleaning rooms and tending bars. The greatest impact of these life stories is that the Republican ticket could say just how poor people need not stay poor if government gets out of the way.
Perry and Rubio are both social and economic conservatives. The left tries to downplay the appeal of social conservatism, but to take just a single social conservative issue, abortion, the latest Rasmussen Poll shows that 55% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong while only 30% believe that abortion is morally acceptable and 41% of Americans believe that it is too easy to get an abortion in America while only 14% believe that it is too hard to get an abortion. The vanilla question about whether Americans are “pro-choice” or “pro-life” is meaningless, if Republican candidates have the gumption to ask Obama in a debate whether he believes abortion is moral or immoral – leaving the question of federal policy on abortion aside.
This particular ticket would also have profound appeal to Hispanic voters, whose support for Obama has dropped a dramatic 36 percentage points since he took office. The impact of Rubio on the ticket, of course, is obvious: he would be the first Hispanic on a major party ticket in American history. Big chunks of Hispanic voters in 2008 voted for Obama because he was a “person of color.” Re-electing a black man president has much less psychological value to Hispanic voters than electing a Hispanic who could easily be president in eight years.
The impact of Rick Perry is real, but underestimated by Beltway punditry which listens more to high ranking Hispanic organizational leaders rather than ordinary Hispanics. Perry has won many statewide elections in Texas, including three as governor. Almost 40% of the state is Hispanic. Governor Perry speaks Spanish, but more than that, just as a New York City or Chicago politicians grasp the nuances of European ethnic differences, so Perry understands the largely Mexican-American and has steadily improved his percentage of the Hispanic vote in Texas elections.
A politically savvy Perry with the first Hispanic on a national ticket as his running mate could disarm the traditional skittishness that some Hispanics have had about voting Republican. Combine that with the very real success that Perry has had in creating jobs in Texas – compared with Obama nationally or California Democrats – and he could make a strong argument that Perry-Rubio is precisely what most Hispanics really want in Washington.
This could be complemented by the rise of Hispanic Republicans in 2010. Susana Martinez, the conservative Republican Governor of New Mexico next door to Texas, is a prime example. The first female Hispanic governor in American history could travel throughout the Rocky Mountain region touting a Perry-Rubio ticket. It is not just Hispanic “people of color” that could connect with Hispanics. Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, both articulate and strongly Republican governors could both show the legal immigrants from lands as distant as India are welcomed by conservatives.
Black voters will go overwhelmingly for Obama, but black voters vote overwhelmingly for Democrats no matter what Republicans have tried. If Hispanic voters, already accustomed to conservative Republicans senators and governors, vote in substantial numbers for conservative Republicans at the national level, then not only is Obama in trouble, but so is his party. That is why Perry-Rubio could be the ticket Democrats fear most.