By Elizabeth de Armas and Luis Carlos López
Hispanic Link News Service
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) still can’t evade vice presidential chatter even though he has professed little interest in the position and, at times, refuses to discuss the subject up altogether.
In the latest twist, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney proclaimed publicly June 19 that he is indeed vetting the Cuban-American as his potential running mate.
Romney’s remarks refuted reports made earlier that day by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl that Rubio was no longer under consideration.
When Hispanic Link News Service reached out to Romney’s communications director Andrea Saul for clarification, she simply stated, “We don’t discuss the VP process.”
Other “veep” contenders include former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. New Mexico Governor Susana Martínez, the first Latina in U.S. history to hold that office, no longer appears to be under consideration.
The decision as to who will become Romney’s running mate is not expected until after July 4.
But the 41-year-old Rubio, who rose to political stardom thanks to heavy Tea Party support in 2010, has once again positioned himself as the viable choice. He was instrumental in the June 14 confirmation of Puerto Rican Mari Carmen Aponte as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. Her confirmation, blocked by GOP members in December, was passed by a 62-37 vote, including nine Republican “ayes.”
Rubio made the difference, said Angelo Falcón, president of the New York-based National Institute for Latino Policy. “It wasn’t only his vote, but also his being able to change other Republican votes.”
Falcón said President Obama’s June 15 Rose Garden announcement halting the deportation of some 800,000 undocumented youth lifted a page out of Rubio’s Republican version of the DREAM Act. “[He] was a big part of it… The president didn’t want to be out-maneuvered on the issue by the Republicans,” Falcón said.
In December 2010, the DREAM Act fell five votes short in the Senate.
The Democratic-backed version would provide a pathway to citizenship for more than 2 million undocumented students and service men and women.
Obama told reporters, “Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life — studied hard, worked hard … only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak… I have said time and time again to Congress, ‘Send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk and I will sign it right away.’”
Falcón said mobilizing voters to the polls in November is crucial for the president, adding that Obama is doing everything he can to secure the Latino vote. “It is a short-term solution and the president admitted that, but the idea buys time to develop a long-term solution.”
Following the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement deferring deportation of DREAM Act students, Rubio reiterated Falcón’s claim calling the approach “a short-term answer to a long-term problem.”
Though Rubio has plans to present his own legislation, there’s still doubt about whether his meteoric rise and political astuteness can unify both parties on controversial issues.
Rubio was the keynote speaker June 14 at the Faith and Freedom Coalition luncheon that kicked-off the group’s annual conference at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. There, in front of more than 200 evangelical conservatives, the son of Cuban immigrants ignored the topic of immigration and the DREAM Act altogether.
Falcón said Rubio’s decision not to mention immigration or the DREAM Act was a political move.
Rubio used the luncheon as a platform to promote his first book, “An American Son,” which was released June 19. “It’s a tribute to my parents and my grandparents and sacrifices and hard work, but it’s also a tribute to America. Things are possible here that aren’t elsewhere,” he said.
Following the luncheon, Rubio proceeded to sign book cards. When a reporter asked him how he felt about being vetted by Romney, Rubio did not respond, but he smiled.
Elizabeth de Armas and Luis Carlos López are correspondents with Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. The article is available in Spanish at Hispanic Link.