Conservatives attending a recent regional conference in Chicago voiced their support in a straw poll for Florida US Senator Marco Rubio’s selection for the bottom-half of the 2012 GOP ticket, which is hardly surprising.
Rubio is the closest thing the Republican Party has to a “rock star” politician. The young Cuban-American is for the GOP in 2012 what Barack Obama was to the Democratic Party after 2004.
Had Rubio sought the party’s presidential nomination in 2012, it’s very likely he would have been the de facto nominee before Saint Patrick’s Day.
Though unlike the president, Rubio doesn’t seem to be a young man in hurry.
Rubio has exhibited disinterest in the vice-presidency throughout the 2012 primary season and I think Republicans should take him at his word.
Rubio would be wise to shape his own destiny in 2016 or later than tether his fortunes to someone else.
If Romney were to lose this November, Rubio becomes frontrunner in the next election before the ex-Massachusetts governor would finish his concession speech.
Even if Romney wins in November, it’s hard to imagine Rubio not being considered the favorite for the party nod in 2020.
Besides, unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates tend to not do well when they run for the top spot on the party ticket the next go round.
Just ask Henry Cabot Lodge, Ed Muskie, Sarge Shriver, Bob Dole, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards how the experience helped their presidential ambitions.
In the case of Dole it took three tries and twenty years to win the Republican nomination after going down to defeat with Gerald Ford in 1976.
For those keeping score at home, Franklin Roosevelt was the last (and may be the only) unsuccessful vice-presidential candidate to later be elected president.
I am not of the opinion that Rubio would be the best possible running mate for Romney anyway.
That distinction goes to Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, though he is also unavailable by his own choice.
So with those two doors closed, the next batter up would be Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.
Jindal brings far more to the table than Louisiana’s reduced handful of electoral votes.
Jindal has a largely pristine ethical record and has pushed through a number of political reform bills that provide an uncharacteristically favorable national narrative for a Louisiana governor.
Jindal would also be an articulate voice on the all-important issue of energy.
While covering the Iowa caucuses, I noticed how folks attending Rick Perry rallies seemed more interested meeting the Louisiana governor than the Texas governor.
Jindal also has impeccable social conservative credentials, solving Romney’s “Santorum problem” without having to pick Santorum.
Jindal’s selection would come with an opportunity cost.
Louisiana is already in the electoral can for Romney so the GOP nominee would be passing up the opportunity to go with someone from a marginal state that could make the difference in a tight election.
There are those in the party who feel that Romney should pick someone who is not identified with the party’s evangelical base in order to make a play for independents that are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. These are the same people who have preferred Lieberman to Sarah Palin.
And then there was Jindal’s universally panned response to Obama’s first State of the Union address.
That said, none of the aforementioned should be considered disqualifiers for Jindal.
Saturday Night Live might mock Jindal as geeky, but they won’t be able to portray him as stupid or incompetent, especially when the current vice-president has at times come off more like Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin character from the Naked Gun movies than a man who is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
During his White House bid, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tried to sell his candidacy by asking Republican voters to imagine a Gingrich-Obama debate.
I think a Jindal-Biden debate would be just as entertaining and one-sided for the GOP.
Fortunately for Jindal, voters in states with volcano problems tend to trend either deep red or deep red.
As he prepares to face off against one of the most charismatic politicians in American history, the politically wooden Romney needs to inject his candidacy with some excitement.
And an off-the-rack selection isn’t going to provide that.
McCain had successfully accomplished that task before his inept campaign staff badly bungled the media rollout of Palin.
In contrast, the Louisiana governor is already media savvy.
Jindal is a low-risk politician, non-traditional Republican with an impressive academic and administrative resume who will reassure social conservatives, exude ability to independents and signal a more youthful direction away from the Republican Party’s Grumpy Ole Paw-paw image.
Romney could do far worse than choosing Jindal.
Let’s hope he doesn’t.