Rubio may be losing some ground in the veepstakes

Published Apr. 29, 2012

Marco Rubio had a great week, with a well-received foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution and loads of buzz about his efforts to craft a new version of the Dream Act.

Campaigning with Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, Florida's freshman senator declared he would no longer speak about the vice presidential process — prompting former John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt to conclude Romney has already begun vetting Rubio.

"People who aren't getting vetted are going to say, 'I'm not being vetted. I'm not going to do it.' People who are going to be vetted say, 'Well, I'm going to respect the process, and I won't talk about that,' " Schmidt said on MSNBC. "But his answer to me clearly said that yeah, he's starting to turn over records and documents."

However, our trusty Veep-O-Meter finds Rubio is actually losing a little ground in the veepstakes. Why? Rubio may still be the most popular choice among grass root activists, but there's more and more chatter among the Beltway chattering class that picking the 40-year-old Rubio invites more risk than reward.

George Will, touting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, recently derided "Faux realists" arguing that a running mate can win over a particular state or demographic such as Latino voters. Respected political analyst Stuart Rothenberg made a similar case last week, noting the vice presidential candidates rarely "deliver" their home states or win over some demographic group.

In Slate, John Dickerson called Rubio "this year's Sarah Palin" and suggested Romney would undercut his argument as the candidate of executive experience if he tapped Rubio.

And then there was former Panhandle Rep. Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe last week: "Marco Rubio's a great guy, he's got a compelling story, and my God what a great demographic he will speak to on a national ticket some day. But he is not ready to be on a national ticket in 2012. … I would just warn those who are fans of Marco Rubio, who think they are doing him a favor by pushing him center stage right after he's been elected to the United States Senate: Back off. You're going to hurt him in the long run, because he's not ready to be in the Oval Office, he's not ready to be president of the United States."

And it didn't help that news reports on Friday said the Federal Election Commission had leveled an $8,000 fine against the Rubio campaign for receiving excessive and impermissible campaign donations in his Senate race in 2010.

Mascot for USF Poly?

Now that Florida Polytechnic is Florida's 12th university, courtesy of state Sen. JD Alexander, the burning question is what to call its mascots. Some politicos on Twitter last week had excellent ideas for the Polk County school focused on science, math and technology. Among them: the Nanobots, the High Tech Hydros, the Poly Polymers, the PolyWannaCrackers. Our favorite? The Fightin' Alexanders.

After the court rules

A lot of Republicans will be cheering if the U.S. Supreme Court declares much or all of the health care law unconstitutional this summer. But then what?

"The Republicans need to be at the forefront with a plan. Symbolically we repealed ObamaCare, if you will, when we first got elected last January. But yet we've done nothing to replace it," U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, lamented in a Political Connections interview airing today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. "We need to be ready as Republicans in the House with a plan that we can put over to the Senate come this June, come this July, that in the event the Supreme Court does declare that mandate unconstitutional we have something in place."

Baby for Weatherford

He swore he'd never be like his parents, the heads of a household teeming with nine children. But state Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is quickly catching up. Last week, the House speaker-designate announced that he and his wife, Courtney, are expecting their third child. "It's another election baby," he said, referring to their second child, Molly Marie, who was born after the 2010 race.

'Stand your ground'

Don't expect a push to repeal the "stand your ground" law to come from Pinellas County.

Nine of the county's state lawmakers were put on the spot about stand your ground at a Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon last week and most insisted it shouldn't even apply in the Trayvon Martin case. Most said they could see tinkering with it but not repealing it.

"The media has done a horrible job in reporting this," said Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg. "The law doesn't come close to applying."

"I don't think stand your ground applied in this situation," said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. "A person should be able to defend themselves."

Only Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said he opposes the law. But he announced last week he's leaving the Legislature.

Another loaded question: Who was a bigger train wreck, Johnnie Byrd as speaker of the state House or Mike Haridopolos as Senate president? Byrd won in a landslide. Byrd, by the way, is running for Hillsborough County circuit judge this year.

How Rubio voted

Rubio last week voted against a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and Florida Democrats pounced, calling it a "gross display of partisanship and extremism over sound policy." (Sen. Bill Nelson joined the majority in favor of the bill, which passed 68-31.)

But Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said Rubio opposed a provision that would divert 30 percent of STOP grants for domestic violence programs to combat sexual assault.

"There's no evidence that the increased funding will result in enhanced prosecutions or additional cases reported, and folks in Florida opposed it," Conant said.

Times staff writers Alex Leary, Michael Van Sickler and Lisa Buie contributed to this week's Buzz. Follow Adam Smith on Twitter @AdamSmithTimes.