Romney’s choice of veep will largely decide if he becomes president.
Paul McCartney sang, “We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert.” Likewise, Mitt Romney may grieve by ignoring the clear slam-dunk Republican candidate for Vice-President. If Florida’s Marco Rubio is inexplicably bypassed, the GOP’s weeping and wailing will make Uncle Albert resemble the Sunshine Kid.
Today, Ohio’s Rob Portman, 56, is rumored to be Romney’s Veep flavor of the month. He has a fine resume: U.S. House, now Senate; Bush 41’s head of White House’s head of legislative affairs; two Bush 43 posts; lawyer, businessman, member of last year’s congressional supercommittee to cut the deficit before the deficit cuts us. All of which means little in an election — political — year.
What matters is that Portman is a me-too Republican. Politically, he adds little: Romney trails narrowly in Ohio even with Rob Roy on the ticket. Rhetorically, Portman apes Gerald Ford via Bob Dole by way of J. Danforth Quayle. In a year when Republicans must communicate to win, he makes Romney look like Mick Jagger meets James Earl Jones.
To be fair, Romney, 65, has plusses: honor, savvy, business skill. Elected, he might make a good, even great, president. Alas, he is an awkward politician — thus, may never be president.
“Businessmen in politics get eaten alive,” Richard Nixon often said. “Their skill set is irrelevant to politics’ needs”: glad-hand, smear the truth, slice the other guy’s throat. It’s not what they teach in Sunday school, Nixon mused, but it’s true.
It is — which is why Romney (Harvard Business School ’75) doesn’t need Portman (Dartmouth College ’79) — a country club, Wall Street, top 1 percent Democratic GOP dream ticket. He does need the man of whom ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush said in 2010, “Marco Rubio makes me cry for joy” after Bush’s protégé won a U.S. Senate landslide. In 1954, Hollywood released “A Star Is Born.” A Republican Star is now Romney’s for the asking.
Rubio, 41, is the son of exiles from Castro’s Cuba: dad, a bartender; mom, a maid. He worked through school, at 28 was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and became the state’s youngest House Speaker — youth not wasted on the young. Rubio embraced the nascent Tea Party, won his 2010 U.S. Senate seat by a million votes, and tied a populist’s DNA, drop-dead looks, and love of American exceptionalism. Such goods are hard to find.
For two decades, top GOPers have been unable to communicate — thus, rhetorically leapfrog a far-left press to lead their right-center country. By contrast, Rubio articulates limited government, sane tax and spend, and Ronald Reagan’s “community of values” — family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom — to help the melting pot trump pluralism gone mad.
Theodore Roosevelt warned prophetically, “Anyone who calls himself a hyphenated American is not a real American.” Rubio agrees, insisting that all races assimilate, roughly defined as learn English, prize American history, spurn group grievance, and respect the law. Think of him as a political and ethnic bridge.
Page 2 of 2 - A poll of 29-electoral-vote Florida shows Romney and Obama even. Add Rubio, and Romney leads, 47-42 percent. Romney’s choice of veep will largely decide if he becomes president. A bad politician rarely wins the office. As Uncle Albert could tell you, choosing Portman over Rubio would be even sorrier than bad.
Curt Smith is the author of 15 books; former speechwriter to President George H.W. Bush; and host of WXXI Radio’s “Perspectives” at 2 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Tuesday. His views do not necessarily reflect the station’s. Smith writes twice monthly for Messenger Post Media. E-mail: email@example.com