ABC News is reporting this morning what may be the first actual scoop on who will be the Republican vice presidential candidate. According to Jonathan Karl, his sources say Mitt Romney’s vice presidential search team is not even vetting Florida Senator Marco Rubio. If true, this would be a clear indication that one of the party’s stars — and someone long thought to be at the top of the list of possible Republican veeps — is not being seriously considered for the nomination.
As Karl concedes, Rubio may yet be asked to start filling out the voluminous questionnaires and financial forms required to begin the process of the Romney team’s investigations of those under active consideration. But if Rubio is not being vetted with just two months to go before Romney must make up his mind, there is no way to interpret this piece of information without assuming that either Rubio has taken himself out of the picture or Romney has decided he’s not on the short list. As it is clearly not in Romney’s interest to publicly snub Rubio, the former possibility seems the more likely, especially because at times during the past six months Rubio’s adamant statements that the vice presidency “wasn’t going to happen” for him fueled speculation he did not wish to be picked.
Rubio seemed to back off his more Shermanesque statements about being selected in recent months, leading some observers to wonder whether his earlier negativity about the nomination was mere posturing so as to not seem too eager. But if Rubio is really not even being asked to go through the routine preliminaries of the search, that has to mean either the senator or Romney has made a decision.
The Republican vice presidential nomination is the last piece of this year’s election puzzle to be filled in. The closer we get to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the more intense the focus on the search will be. The mere appearance of some vice presidential possibilities on Romney’s Middle West bus tour is being treated as nothing less than an open audition for the role of running mate. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rubio are all supposed to take their turns on the bus.
Whether the tour is actually part of a trial run whereby Romney discovers whether he can bond with the various hopefuls or just a noisy distraction from the actual search going on outside of the glare of the political bright lights is yet to be seen. But whether the road show is more of a charade than a real audition, it is curious that Rubio would not be paid the courtesy of a vetting even if Romney is sure he will go in another direction. The senator is clearly a rising star within the party and the subject of so much attention on the vice presidency.
Why either Rubio or Romney have made this decision is a question that may be as interesting as the actual name of the nominee. Because Rubio is still a relative newcomer on the national stage, this story will increase the rumor mongering about the senator and lead some to wonder whether there is some real impediment to his presence on the GOP ticket. That means that despite the blanket of official silence about the search from the Romney camp, somebody is going to have say something about Rubio’s suitability if for no other reason than to avoid the impression that the leading Republican Hispanic is not being ill-treated.