Rubio statement: I will not be Trump's VP and my concerns about him remain unchanged

Rubio fans were beating on me Friday afternoon for posting this semi-credulously even though I wasn’t credulous and said so in the post. Rubio can’t be Trump’s VP for the simple reason that he attacked him too viciously in the primaries. Saying on camera that your opponent’s a “con artist” who’s unfit to lead the party of Lincoln and Reagan means you’re disqualified for the veepstakes. Democrats will be running that clip in ads all the way to November; imagine how much more effective it’d be if Rubio were Trump’s running mate.

So no, he’s not going to be VP and never was going to be VP once he started the “con artist” attacks. But if you need to hear it from the man himself, here you go:

While Republican voters have chosen Donald Trump as the presumptive GOP nominee, my previously stated reservations about his campaign and concerns with many of his policies remain unchanged. He will be best served by a running mate and by surrogates who fully embrace his campaign. As such, I have never sought, will not seek and do not want to be considered for Vice President. Instead, I will focus my attention on representing the people of Florida, retaining a conservative majority in the Senate and electing principled conservatives across the country.

That’s definitive about the VP slot. What about an endorsement? Here’s what Rubio said the day after Trump’s landslide in New York, two weeks before Cruz lost Indiana and dropped out:

“I’ve always said I’m going to support the Republican nominee, and that’s especially true now that it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic candidate,” Rubio said.

“My differences with Donald Trump are well documented, and obviously we had 12 months to talk about those,” Rubio said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be the nominee. We don’t know that yet … but Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for America. She really would. I think she’s got a lot of ethical questions surrounding her campaign. I think she was not a very good secretary of state, and, quite frankly, she’s a candidate that looks backwards. America needs to turn the page and move towards the future.”

To my knowledge he hasn’t reiterated that he’ll support the nominee in the six days since Cruz and Kasich left the race but the quote above obviously imagines Trump as nominee. On the other hand, today’s statement conspicuously doesn’t say anything about backing Trump. It would have been easy, and almost logical, for him to say something perfunctory about endorsing the winner of the GOP primary while taking himself out of the VP running. He didn’t. Hmmmm. Is Rubio quietly going #NeverTrump?

I continue to believe that Cruz will grudgingly endorse Trump in order to protect his populist flank for when he runs again in 2020. We’ll know more about that this week as he starts doing interviews again. The question for Rubio is this: If he went #NeverTrump, would that help him or hurt him vis-a-vis Cruz four years from now? If you’re a #NeverTrump conservative, Rubio refusing to endorse Trump would be an admirable show of principle at some political risk. It would complicate Cruz’s argument that he’s the truest of true conservatives while Rubio’s really just an establishment RINO in conservative clothing. When the chips were down, Rubio fans could say, who stood boldly against Trump’s brand of nationalist demagoguery and who decided to play ball in order to further his own ambitions? This is an opening for Rubio to earn some cred at Cruz’s expense — if, that is, Cruz really does endorse Trump.

But what if you’re not a #NeverTrump conservative? They’re maybe one percent of the party. How would the other 99 percent view a Republican politician who stubbornly refused to back the GOP nominee this time?

The candidate who refused to back Trump wouldn’t be viewed as more conservative than those who did, he’d be viewed (by some at least) as less so because in the end he helped enable a Democratic victory. This is why this is such a tough call for Cruz and Rubio. Not only is the composition of the party in 2020 a total mystery right now, it’s hard to gauge how even rank-and-file conservatives within the party will react to the general election. Which is the “RINO” position on whether to desert Trump and which is the “true conservative” one? For once, the lines aren’t clear.

Exit question: Is Team Trump just lying outright about taking calls from Rubio and Paul Ryan? Hard to imagine a group so famously principled and ethical BSing reporters to enhance their guy’s prestige.