Well, the big boys are starting to show their hands. Former President
George H.W. Bush joined his son Jeb this week in endorsing Mitt Romney
to be the Republican Party presidential candidate. Florida Senator Marco
Rubio also got into the action.
Sure, the Romney camp would have liked more of the Republican elites to
swing behind their guy sooner, but now is a pretty good time to build
some endorsement momentum and get more people used to the idea that
Romney will be the party’s inevitable nominee no matter how long Rick
Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul plan to stay in the race.
Rubio, of course, is a heavy favorite to be on the short list of
possible vice presidential picks for Romney before the Republican
convention in Tampa in late August. The Republican senator has long been
seen as a rising star in the party and whether or not he’s on the ticket
this year probably won’t alter that calculation for the future. He is
from a key battleground state, Florida, and has great appeal to
Hispanic-American voters with his Cuban background.
As the Hispanic voting population continues to grow in the U.S. over the
next few decades, Republicans are going to have to find ways to appeal
to this electorate and cut down on the Democratic victory margins among
these voters. Rubio also won his Senate seat in Florida with help from
the Tea Party movement, so he represents a new kind of Republican with
at least the potential to bridge the divide between moderate Hispanics
drawn to the Republican’s conservative views on social issues and the
often anti-illegal immigration Tea Party crowd that demands secure
borders and in some cases the expulsion of illegals back to their home
countries. Rubio has been talking about introducing some sort of limited
immigration reform measure aimed at improving Hispanic perceptions of
the Republican Party.
Will Marco Rubio be the vice presidential candidate?
Assuming Romney winds
up being the nominee, he and his brain trust will have to decide if
Rubio has enough experience to go on the ticket as veep, or whether it
would be safer to go with a more traditional-type pick like Virginia
Governor Bob McDonnell or Ohio Senator Rob Portman, both of whom also
come from swing states in the general election.
Santorum and Gingrich Press On But How Much Longer?
Tuesday’s next round of primaries includes Washington, D.C., Maryland
and Wisconsin. Romney seems strong in the first two, so Wisconsin is
shaping up as one of the last true showdown contests between Romney and
Santorum. A Santorum victory in Wisconsin might give him enough gas to
get to the end of May and the primary in Texas, where he should do well.
On the other hand, if Romney can sweep on Tuesday, it will just add more
fuel to the fire of Republicans saying enough is enough, let’s get
behind Romney and get on with this thing. The latest polls give Romney
an edge in Wisconsin.
Ohio Representative Steve Chabot told my colleague Carol Castiel this
week that he would like to see
the Republican primary race wrap up so that his party can focus its fire
on President Obama. So keep an eye on the results from Wisconsin. A
Romney win there would just make it harder for Rick Santorum to justify
why he stays in the race week after week.
As for Newt Gingrich, he has sharply cut back his campaign staff and
seems to have adopted a strategy of trying to win over individual
delegates prior to the August convention in some last ditch effort to
stop Romney. Even his main Super PAC backer, casino magnate Sheldon
Adelson, says Newt seems to be winding down his campaign after several
disappointing finishes in recent primaries.
Romney has confirmed that he met with Gingrich recently, but there is no
word on what exactly they discussed. Would Gingrich demand something
from Romney as a condition for getting out of the race? It’s not clear,
but all of the contenders who will come up short against Romney for the
nomination must be thinking about the mechanics and timing of exiting
the race and getting behind Romney as the expected nominee.
The Supremes and Health Care Politics
So we will know by the end of June the fate of the Obama health care
law. The Supreme Court could go any number of ways, but the tenor of the
questions from several of the justices during the oral arguments this
past week suggest the conservatives plus noted swing vote Justice
Anthony Kennedy seem skeptical, to put it mildly, of the individual
insurance mandate, the cornerstone of the reform act.
Striking down the mandate or, more broadly the entire law, would be a
huge setback for President Obama and his Democratic supporters. To have
the signature achievement of your administration ruled unconstitutional
by the high court could depress Democrats and validate the claims of
Republican opponents that the law is too far-reaching and violates some
of the individual liberty precepts in the U.S. Constitution.
is not to say that Democrats would take a negative ruling on the health
care law lying down. For sure, it could energize some Obama supporters
to make sure he is re-elected in November. And for many Democrats,
striking down the health care law would point to the perils of a court
dominated by conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents.
There would be echoes of the political fallout from the Bush versus Gore
decision from 2000 that legitimized George W. Bush’s election victory
over Al Gore, and more recently the Citizens United case of two years
ago that dramatically scaled back regulations on unions, corporations
and private citizens from spending unlimited amounts of money on behalf
of presidential and congressional candidates, as long as they do not
coordinate with specific campaigns.
It’s too early to know what the court decision will be, or the scale of
any possible backlash, but the high court this week was the crossroads
of politics and law in the U.S. and the passions on display from both
sides on the sidewalk outside the court were notable and a preview of
what’s to come once the court ruling is announced in June.