So the beltway media has been abuzz this week about Senator Marco Rubio’s increasing national profile. Reporters have been experiencing a case of “starbursts” through their keyboards. They wrote up a slobbering profile of the freshman GOP Senator. Then just days ago Rubio gave a speech at the Ronald Reagan library.
What is happening here is pretty obvious to anyone who wants to cut through the BS. Helpfully Dave Weigel tells us the obvious:
1) Buttered-up profile pieces. Easily done. The Reagan speech got Rubio a McClatchy storyabout how Nancy Reagan personally beckoned him to Simi Valley. "You’ve been identified as someone to watch on the national political scene," she said, giving future Rubio-profile-writers an insta-quote for the beginning of the what-people-are-saying section. From McClatchy, we also learn that John Boehner quoted Rubio, and that this is significant.
2) Scene pieces. See the Frank story for that. Most of the early coverage of Rubio's speech informed us that 1) he gave a speech, 2) the crowd was huge, and 3) he helped up Nancy Reagan when she stumbled.
3) Micro policy news. In the debt speech, Rubio, who had not taken a lead role in the debt limit debate, staked his position: There could be no putting off the "day of reckoning." In Simi Valley, he came out for a gradual Social Security phase-out.
Barack Obama did the same thing -- the exact same thing! -- in 2005 and 2006, when he was a freshman senator who was constantly asked whether he'd run for president. He didn't take the lead in the "There Is No Crisis" fight to beat Social Security privatization, but he gave setpiece speeches about it, most notably at Knox College. But Obama was more subtle; his media team (led by Robert Gibbs at the time) kept most of his setpieces in Illinois. Rubio has no shortage of places in Florida to do this stuff. And yet he goes to California, and North Carolina. Of course reporters have to waste their time asking Rubio if he's gunning for national office, and writing down his humble "no," but this is a friendly exchange of total bullshit.
There is another point here that is worth making. One may think that Rubio is making some kind of strategic mistake by positioning himself for the number 2 slot in the GOP ticket. Face it the record of elected Vice Presidents becoming President is not all that great. The ones who have succeeded have been marred with resignations and humiliating losses. The last two who angled for nomination also did not make it into the White House. Yet if you think about it, Rubio is actually making a very calculated move.
In my honest opinion, whether or not Rubio becomes the next VP is moot because the Republicans are not going to win in 2012. Yes, there is I said it. Republicans are not going to win in 2012. Yes, I get that President Barack Obama has had a terrible summer and his numbers are low. But I do not see the President losing to chumps like Rick Perry, Mitt Romney or Michelle Bachmann (LOL). I am pretty sure Rubio’s strategic advisers know that as well. Yet Rubio has nothing to lose from running for the VP spot.
Running for VP spot is extremely beneficial to Rubio because he will get the automatic national spotlight (look what it did for a joke like Sarah Palin). Even if the Republican ticket loses in 2012 – which it will – a VP nomination will essentially make Rubio an automatic favorite to get the GOP nomination in 2016. It will essentially ensure that 2015-16 run to nomination is more of a coronation for Rubio than a contest in the next GOP primary.
So, what progressive and Democratic observers should do is start labeling Rubio is nothing more than yet another selfish politician, who is more consumed with his political self-interest than the interest of his party. I am guessing there are other Republican politicians who would be interested in that VP slot would be interested in threading that narrative. If Rubio becomes the VP nominee in 2012, it will be all about Rubio, just like in 2008 it became all about Palin. The question also becomes whether someone like a Perry or Romney would be interested in bringing in a guy like Rubio, who will most likely be looking ahead to 2016, rather than worrying about what will be an inevitable losing effort in 2012?
Will someone ask these questions loudly during the nauseating Rubio tour or on the GOP campaign trail?