Citing “knowledgeable Republican sources,” Jonathan Karl of ABC News is reporting that Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential search team, which was assembled two months ago, has yet to show any interest in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
If true, this doesn’t officially mean that Rubio is out of the running; the GOP convention is still more than two months away, and it’s not unheard of for prospects to emerge late in the process and land on the ticket – Sarah Palin last time around, for instance. But it would be a very strong hint that Rubio won’t end up running with Romney this fall.
For one thing, Palin’s example is the cautionary tale to end all cautionary tales when it comes to the perils of last-minute vetting, one the Romney campaign has presumably learned from. While the charismatic Rubio is a favorite among some Tea Party leaders (like Jim DeMint) and rank-and-file Republicans, he’s still new to the national stage, winning his Senate seat less than two years ago.
Questions about his personal finances dogged him during his 2010 Florida campaign and would be revived – and magnified – if he were to run nationally. His close connections to several embattled Republicans in his home state – like former state party chairman Jim Greer, who is now facing fraud and money-laundering charges, and Rep. David Rivera, who was the subject of a protracted inquiry into his use of campaign funds that recently ended with a scathing memo from prosecutors about his conduct (though no actual prosecution) – would be problematic too. Other surprise revelations about his personal story, like the fact that he and his family were LDS members for several years, have underscored how much is still unknown about Rubio.
Add all of this (and more) together and there’s reason for Romney to be hesitant about teaming up with Rubio. The stories that are already out there could cause real headaches or blow up into something worse, and there’s always the possibility of something new emerging. At the very least, this would make it imperative for the Romney team to vet Rubio thoroughly if they’re interested in him – which makes it all the more significant that they apparently haven’t even requested basic paperwork yet.
The timing of Karl’s story is also interesting. It comes after a rough few days for Romney, who was blindsided by President Obama’s immigration announcement and literally left with nothing to say in a major national television interview. Rubio is part of this story. He’d been sending signals for months that he was preparing legislation that would halt deportations of many children of illegal immigrants – basically, a watered-down Dream Act that would grant work permits without creating a path to citizenship. Romney, in turn, seemed to be telegraphing his intent to sign on to the Rubio plan, which had the potential to gather some real momentum behind it.
Only the Rubio plan never actually emerged. And then Obama stepped in last Friday and said that his administration would allow up to 800,000 law-abiding children of illegal immigrants to apply for work permits. In an interview yesterday, Rubio conceded that Obama had stolen his thunder and indicated that he wouldn’t make any proposal of his own for the rest of the year.
Assuming Karl’s report is true, the Romney campaign has had reservations about Rubio that predate the immigration kerfuffle of the past few days. But if Rubio is hoping to be a late addition to the V.P. list, he didn’t do himself any favors by dawdling when his party’s presumptive nominee needed him the most.