Marco Rubio Won't Win Hispanics for the GOP

Everything about Senator Marco Rubio screams “vice presidential pick.” He’s young, charismatic, and ideologically acceptable to large swaths of the Republican Party. What’s more, he hails from an important swing state – Florida – and could help the GOP repair its fractured image with Hispanic voters.

However, as The Washington Post notes, all is not well in the land of Rubio. Between his right-wing views on immigration, his opposition to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, and several small-scale scandals – including the recent controversy over his family history – Rubio isn’t as well placed as he initially seemed. In addition, the fact that Rubio is Hispanic doesn’t mean as much as it sounds, given the multiple Latino communities in the United States. As pollster Simon Rosenberg notes for The Post:

“Despite being Hispanic, looking at his overall record . . . he seems remarkably ill-suited to be the one reaching out to the largely Mexican migrant community in the key battleground states.”

There’s one other fact that should make Rubio-boosters question his value to the GOP ticket in 2012 – vice presidential nominees are almost always irrelevant to the party’s overall performance in a presidential election. According to a 2010 analysis by political scientists Bernard Grofman and Reuben Kline, the “net impact of vice presidential selection is at most 1 percentage point.” At best, the presidential nominee might have a better shot at winning his running-mate’s home state. The one (possible) exception to this rule is Sarah Palin – there’s evidence to suggest that she had a measurably negative effect on John McCain’s share of the vote.

In any case, if the GOP wants to recover its standing with Latino voters, it’s not enough to nominate a Hispanic politician to the vice presidency. To win Latino voters, Republicans must match symbolism with action – absent more humane immigration policies and an end to viruently anti-immigrant rhetoric, a Vice President Rubio doesn’t mean much.