Marco Rubio says he would turn down an offer to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. Does that mean we should take him off the list of potential vice presidential candidates?
Not a chance.
On the surface, Rubio’s latest comments are definitive. Just look at what told National Journal’s Major Garrett:
Rubio: “I don’t want to be the vice president”
Garrett: “So if Mitt Romney asks, you will you say no?”
No gray area there: Rubio says he’d refuse the offer.
But nobody – not even, or especially, close allies of Rubio – believes that Rubio’s statement truly takes him out of the running.
As one top Republican operative told me: “Nobody believes that saying no really means no.”
“He would certainly consider what is best for the country if Mitt Romney asked him,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, who thinks Rubio would be an ideal vice presidential candidate, but said he doesn’t know what Rubio’s answer would be.
Watch Video of Rubio’s Exchange with Major Garrett at the end of this post.
In other words, Rubio’s words should be taken about as seriously as what Joe Biden told Tim Russert in 2007: “I will not be vice president under any circumstances.”
This doesn’t mean Rubio is being dishonest. He may truly not want the job. After less than two years in the Senate, he may truly believe it is too early to step out on the national stage.
But the appeal of a Rubio candidacy – with his support among conservatives, his Florida base and the fact that he is Hispanic at a time when Republicans desperately need to do better among Hispanic voters – makes it almost impossible for Romney not consider him as a running mate. And turning down a real offer is a lot more difficult that turning down a hypothetical offer.
That’s why Rubio’s denial this time around isn’t believed any more than his previous denials.
After all, Rubio said almost the same thing three months ago.
In an interview published on January 9, Rubio told Ken Auletta of the New Yorker “I’m not going to be the Vice-Presidential nominee,” and then he added this: “If I say I’m not going to be it, obviously I’m not going to accept it.”
That didn’t stop speculation about Rubio’s status as top vice presidential prospect any more than what he just told Major Garrett.