GOP Considers Latino Nominees for 2012

Media speculation over who will be the eventual Republican vice presidential candidate has increased since the Florida and Nevada primary results strengthened Mitt Romney’s position as front-runner in the GOP race.


Among the potential candidates courted by Romney and Gingrich are Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. Senator Rubio provides Tea Party backing and legislative experience, Governor Martinez provides a strong law enforcement background and executive experience, and both provide potential inroads into the latino electorate. Both, however, continue to deny any intentions of running.


“Almost all vice-presidential nominees feign disinterest at this point [in the electoral process],” said Louis DeSipio, associate professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies at UC Irvine. “The offers will come in July, but the naming of Marco Rubio as a vice-presidential nominee now is symbolically important. It puts Florida more firmly on the electoral map, but the effect on Latino voters outside of Florida is unknown.”


Although Senator Rubio and Governor Martinez continue not only to deny intentions of running, and refuse to endorse any GOP candidates, major media outlets are exploring what a Latino vice-presidential candidates would bring to the race. She is notable because she is the first female Hispanic governor in the U.S., and is further strengthened by her background as the district attorney for New Mexico’s 3rd Judicial District.


“Romney needs to strengthen his position with Latino voters outside of Florida,” he said. “He has consistently alienated Latino voters throughout the [electoral] process.”


Senator Rubio has a strong background in legislation, having served in the Florida House of Representatives from January 2000 to January 2009, and as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from January 2007 to January 2009. In addition, he has served as one of Florida’s Senators in Washington D.C.


In spite of his popularity among Tea Party elements in the GOP, his reputation as a fiscal conservative and watchdog over federal spending, Senator Rubio has been the subject of controversy over his personal spending habits, and his changing positions on immigration.


“Rubio has moved around quite a bit on immigration,” he said. “After gaining Tea Party support, he became much more strident, but he has not had a chance to vote in the Senate and demonstrate his position. In the last few weeks, he has said that the Republican Party needs to tone down its rhetoric on immigration.”


Nevertheless, the current unofficial vetting of Senator Rubio and Governor Martinez represents an important development in GOP politics. The Latino electorate across the nation has become increasingly mobilized, and the continued instability along the Mexican boarder continues to be an important issue in debates.


“[The Latino electorate] in Florida is becoming more like the rest of the country,” he said. “There is a growing second generation of Cuban Latinos, born in the U.S., who are more moderate than their parents. Approximately one half of the Florida Latino electorate is non-Cuban … The Latino community has become more mobilized after the last election cycle. The Obama campaign, in 2008, really showed that you could do an old style ground war to engage first time voters. In 2012, there are more potential long-term Latino voters who will show up. This is important for the long-term empowerment of those communities. Immigration has also taken on more importance. Since the 2006 immigration reform protests, native-born Latinos have cared more about immigration reform.”


The national Latino electorate is one of the nation’s most important cultural groups, and though it remains to be seen if the increased mobilization of Latino communities demonstrated by the Obama campaign will carry over in this election, they remain an increasingly vocal political voice. It also remains to be seen how the latino electorate will react, should Senator Rubio or Governor Martinez accept the invitation to run as the Republican vice presidential candidate.


“I think Rubio really doesn’t want to run,” DeSipio said. “He has a bright political future. I think it’s better for him to run with a track record.”