Senator Marco Rubio recently said on Fox News that he’s “not going to be the vice presidential nominee” in 2012.
I may have been the first person to float the idea that he should run for president himself in 2012. That’s not going to happen, of course, but a lot of pundits (most forcefully Dick Morris, who recently described the future GOP ticket as “an arranged marriage” where “the bride has been chosen”) insist he should be the Republican vice presidential nominee.
This is not an absurd idea. While I am a bit skeptical of the notion that Rubio’s Cuban-American background would automatically deliver a significant bloc of Latino votes, there are plenty of reasons why the young, eloquent and intelligent Senator from Florida would be a major attribute to a presidential ticket.
The case will eventually be made, of course, that Rubio has to do this for the good of the nation and for the good of America — that it is his patriotic duty for America. It is hard to say “no” to that. But the question Marco Rubio must also answer is — what is best for Marco Rubio?
It is when that question is asked that one begins to think Rubio might be wise to politely reject the overture.
Whether or not the ticket wins, Rubio would be forced to adopt many of the principal’s issues. This means he would risk losing direct control over his brand and his message (as did Sarah Palin). But there are also other dangers for those who play “Robin” to someone else’s “Batman.” Playing second fiddle can sometimes undermine a person’s image as a strong, independent leader. For example, though George H.W. Bush won the presidency in 1988, he never got out from under the shadow of Ronald Reagan.
What is more, any “baggage” that is accumulated during the political campaign or administration (should the ticket win) may impact the running mate’s future chances. The Lewinsky scandal, for example, created unique challenges for then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000. George H.W. Bush had to answer questions about Iran-Contra.
To be sure, sometimes a veep slot can propel a politician to the presidency. Obviously, this sometimes happens when a president dies or resigns from office. And it can sometimes also be a stepping stone to electoral success. It (eventually) worked for Richard Nixon (Eisenhower’s veep) and for George H. W. Bush. But on the other hand, Walter Mondale (Carter’s veep) and Al Gore were not able to parlay the position into a promotion. There are no guarantees.
What is more, some rising stars have crashed after the experience. Dan Quayle was once a bright, young, up-and-coming U.S. Senator. George H.W. Bush did his career no favors when he selected him as his running mate.
This is all a long way of saying it is debatable whether or not accepting such an offer is prudent — especially for a senator who already seems poised to have a bright future in his own right.