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Don't do it, Marco Rubio! Why would you want to be vice president?

The senator is young. Charismatic. Telegenic.

He appeals to a growing Hispanic population, and can talk tea party issues without sounding cuckoo. His star has been on a steady incline, and his future has no limits.

So why in the world would Marco Rubio want to be vice president?

I ask this with the utmost sincerity. Because, considering all Rubio has going for him, a run at the 2012 vice presidency has more potential risk than reward.

And yes, I know that Rubio, who will be in town Saturday night for a speaking engagement, has been pooh-poohing his candidacy for months. But as the Times' Adam C. Smith and Alex Leary pointed out earlier this week, there are also signs Rubio is positioning himself just in case an invitation comes his way.

I'm just not sure why.

The vice presidency, while quite prestigious and extremely important, is also a black hole. The last stop before political careers end up on milk cartons.

Am I overstating matters? Yes, but not by a lot.

Do you know how many VPs went on to become president without first reaching the White House via death or resignation in the last 200 years? Three.

There was Martin Van Buren, George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon, who lost in his first shot after serving under Dwight D. Eisenhower and waited another eight years before eventually winning.

And those were the successful ones. The actual VP incumbents. As for the sad sacks who lost elections as vice presidential candidates? They're like ghosts, practically never heard from again.

They are Jack Kemp (1996) and Estes Kefauver (1956). Lloyd Bentsen (1988) and Ed Muskie (1968). Geraldine Ferraro (1984) and William Miller (1964).

Only one person has ever lost while running for vice president, and then returned to win the presidency. That was FDR, and even he had to wait 12 years between bids.

Win or lose, postage stamps and national holidays are typically not in the cards for those sitting in the No. 2 spot on a convention stage.

So I ask again, why would Rubio want the job?

He has a chance to dominate the Republican Party in the coming years, as long as he avoids missteps along the way. And losing in 2012 would qualify as a misstep.

There is a certain excitement that comes with being a first-time candidate. You need only look at Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain to understand that.

Now, maybe Rubio has the muscle to help Mitt Romney win in November, but if it doesn't work he will never have that fresh flavor again.

And even if they do win, Rubio's fortunes are still tied to Romney. If the first four years of their administration go poorly, Rubio might as well start looking for teaching jobs.

You want a parallel?

Go back to 1956. There was a 39-year-old, first-term senator rising quickly up the party ranks. Rubio is a 40-year-old, freshman senator with similar buzz in his wake.

That first senator lost the Democratic VP bid to Kefauver in '56, and the Democrats went on to lose in the general election. The senator would later come to believe that his political career might have been over if he had gotten the VP nod instead of Kefauver.

Four years later, Sen. John F. Kennedy was president.

John Romano can be reached at romano@tampabay.com.

Don't do it, Marco Rubio! Why would you want to be vice president? 03/28/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 8:07am]

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