Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Veepstakes: Florida edition

Two veepstakes contenders had their stock raised as a result of yesterday's Florida primary: Marco Rubio and Bob McDonnell.

Rubio is obvious.  The weak GOP turnout, the consistently close polling between Obama and Romney in Florida, the sheer necessity for Mitt to win Florida in the general--these factors in combination almost necessitate that Rubio be in play.

Rubio clearly left the door open for joining the Romney ticket.  One would have expected him, as a tea party darling, to endorse one of the more conservative candidates, particularly Newt as his momentum was building.  But instead, he held his endorsement back, which was clearly a win for Mitt.  Mitt knows this big win wouldn't have been possible if Rubio had endorsed Newt.

Rubio's potential strengths on the ticket are obvious (hispanic outreach, generational diversity, his strong conservative bona fides, his Florida roots, his possible appeal to hispanic voters in swing states like NM-AZ-NV-CO, his excellent communication skills, etc.).  So are his weaknesses (youth, inexperience on the national level, lack of any executive experience, lack of accomplishments w/r/t job creation and fiscal reform, etc.).   All factors in the balance, I would have to imagine he'll be on the short list.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell likewise gets an identity politics boost out of last night's results.  The county map showed Newt performing the weakest in areas that may be considered the GOP base--the panhandle and northern part of the state.   These voters are considered the most similar to "Southern" voters, the base of the party (where as Southern Floridians tend to be more like "northen" voters).  If Mitt is distrusted amongst the most conservative elements of the GOP base, and specifically by culturally conservative Southern voters, McDonnell could do a lot to help with that group.   He's a Southerner, has social conservative bona fides, and would be an olive branch to the core of the party that needs to turn out for the GOP to win.  For example, think back to Gore-Bush in 2000.  States with sizeable SoCon southern  voting blocks--TN, MO and AR--were all decided by less than 6%.  A few percentage points of very conservative voters not pulling the lever b/c they're unmotivated by the candidate at the top of the ticket would've swung the election.

McDonnell may not be the "great next leader", who changes the entire philosophical direction of our country, and creates a seismic shift in demographic-party affiliations.  These expectations, which are being heaped on Rubio, reflect well on his potential as a future leader, but may also be unrealistic.

What McDonnell is, and Rubio is not, is a successful executive who has led his state from deficits to surpluses, has been a forceful advocate for energy production, has focused on economic and fiscal reform issues, and managed to accomplish a 70% approval rating in a must-win GOP state that went to the Dems in '08.  The identity politics may prove to be a good match with Mitt, who is strongest in the Mountain West and Upper Midwest, and serve as an olive branch to Southern conservatives.  The identity politics could help restore must-win states to the GOP column that went to Obama in the last cycle:  NC, VA, and FL.   At the same time, McDonnell would tie in nicely with Mitt's core message of executive competence.



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Always sniffing for the truth

Always sniffing for the truth

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