A Freudian slip for Rubio? Update: Rubio suggests Portman

posted at 1:01 pm on April 19, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

His lips say, “No, no, no,” but does Marco Rubio’s subconscious say “Yes, yes, yes“?  National Journal reports that Rubio stumbled over a denial today, calling it a “Freudian slip”:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that “I don’t want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever. I really want to do a good job in the Senate.” He said he’d say no even if presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney asked him.

But in an interview at an event kicking off the University of Phoenix/National Journal Next America project, Rubio also demonstrated that the vice presidency is on his mind.

“If in four to five years, if I do a good job as vice president—I’m sorry, as senator—I’ll have the chance to do all sorts of things,” he said.

I’m fairly certain this is not a Freudian slip, because I don’t think Rubio wants the job at all. Being a VP after just a year or so in the Senate and attending funerals for the next eight years isn’t a great career path for Rubio.  He has plenty of natural talent; what he needs now is practical experience and a track record of success.  He’s correct that a solid term in the Senate with some legislative accomplishments, which might come more easily if the GOP wins the Senate and the White House in November, would position Rubio for big things in a few years.  He could run for Governor, and after a term in that office, be ready to run for President in 2020.

Nor, given Mitt Romney’s recent statement on his prerequisites, do I think Romney would offer Rubio the job:

I can tell you that the one quality that comes to mind immediately is that you want someone who, without question, could lead the country as president if that were necessary. I think all of the political considerations pale in comparison with the consideration of who has the capacity to lead America at a critical time. And I hope if I’m the president that eventuality would never occur. But that has to be the key consideration.

As a business executive, it seems doubtful that Romney would consider a single year in the US Senate as sufficient preparation for that role.  He’d be looking for someone with a track record of executive competence and accomplishment.  In my column for The Fiscal Times, I predict that Romney will add another current or former governor to the ticket, and run down the options:

That makes governors, past and present, the strongest possibilities for a running-mate choice. Fortunately, that leaves plenty of options for Romney for either a regional/key state approach or ideological balancing.  The key states in question this election cycle would be Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, all of which the GOP needs to win back from Democrats in order to beat Obama.  The only other potential candidate for the job in Florida besides Rubio would be Jeb Bush, who passed on running for the top job, and whose last name might be a gift to Barack Obama in the election.

Ohio has two potential candidates, Governor John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman.  Kasich, however, has struggled to maintain standing in the state after his union reform efforts flopped.  Portman has had a diverse career in Congress and in the executive branch under Bush, and is popular with the fiscal conservatives in the Republican base, but might not have enough executive experience to meet Romney’s Day One credentials.

The best key-state candidate would probably be Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, whose two-plus years as the top executive in the state comes after three years as Attorney General and another four years in the state legislature.  McDonnell got significant grassroots backing in late 2009 as Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections gave the Tea Party their first opportunity to go after Obama.  McDonnell has a better chance of giving Romney a boost in Virginia than Kasich does in Ohio, and McDonnell gives Romney a regional boost as a Southern governor.

Be sure to read it all; I cover the regional-balance candidates.  The strongest possibilities, in my opinion, would be McDonnell, Bobby Jindal, and Mitch Daniels, but the good news is that Romney has plenty of options.  We will have several months in which to speculate, but I’d expect Romney’s eventual choice to be very well seasoned as an executive and as a political figure.

Update: Marco Rubio again denied any interest in the job in an interview with ABC News, and this time suggested another candidate:

Rubio even went as far as recommending another U.S. senator for Romney to consider in his VP vetting: Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

“The bigger point is we’ve got a lot of really talented people out there that Mitt Romney can get to pick from,” Rubio said. “And I think a lot, Senator Rob Portman would be a phenomenal choice for vice president. That’s where I would encourage him to look because I’m enjoying my service in the Senate.”

I mention Portman in my column, who might be a good way for Romney to get a better grip on Ohio, but whose executive experience is limited to trade and OMB positions.

Update II: Fora TV has the video of the entire event here:

Greg Hengler has the slip itself here:

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