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Would picking Rubio for VP be an insult to Hispanics?

By Ana Navarro, Special to CNN
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod commented on the idea of picking Sen. Marco Rubio, above, for the GOP ticket.
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod commented on the idea of picking Sen. Marco Rubio, above, for the GOP ticket.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama adviser: Picking Rubio would insult Hispanics because of Romney's stances
  • Ana Navarro says far from an insult, the choice of Rubio would stir support among Latinos
  • She says he earns praise for his work ethic, approach to problems
  • Navarro: Obama broke campaign pledge to introduce immigration reform bill

Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic Campaign Chair for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.

(CNN) -- We don't know who Mitt Romney will pick as his vice presidential nominee. But let's assume for a moment that it's U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Would having the first Hispanic on a presidential ticket be a proud historical moment for Hispanics, or would it be an insult?

David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's top campaign strategist, said to Univision that putting Rubio on the ticket would be "an insult to the Hispanic community ... if Gov. [Mitt] Romney thinks that's sort of a get-out-of-jail-free card for all of the things and the positions that he's taken."

My first thought was, "Who made Axelrod the barometer for the entire Hispanic community?" It is disrespectful for Axelrod to tell a community, to which he doesn't belong, how we would feel. Frankly, I find that insulting.

Ana Navarro
Ana Navarro

Most Hispanics will tell you we are a heterogeneous group, and lumping us into just one big voter bloc is a mistake. There is not one single voice representing the Latino community. Those who claim that do so at their peril. Axelrod though, has no qualms about speaking on behalf of the entire group. Thanks, amigo.

Rubio is a rising star in American politics. Just recently, The Miami Herald detailed how Rubio's work ethic and serious approach to important issues is winning plaudits from senior senators such as Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

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Rubio would make an outstanding vice presidential choice, not because he is Hispanic, but because of his talents, work ethic and policy acumen. To suggest otherwise, as Axelrod did, is to underestimate Rubio and try to wrongly portray him as a "token Hispanic."

Axelrod's pre-emptive attack on Rubio tells us the Obama campaign is worried that having him on the ticket could move the needle with Hispanics enough to assure a Romney victory.

They are right to worry. Rubio is as articulate in Spanish as he is in English. He would be able to communicate with Latinos like no presidential candidate has before. There are distinctions between the different Latino groups. We don't all agree on policy issues. There are also many common bonds. Rubio would be able to speak about the shared heritage, experiences and aspirations.

Opinion: Rubio's deeds, words don't match

Some may think that because Rubio is a Cuban-American from Miami, he is far removed from other Latino communities. That does not match the facts. It's not what Miami is. It's not what Rubio is.

Rubio spent his formative years in Las Vegas, where he was a minority within a minority. He grew up with many children of Mexican descent. Rubio comes from a humble family. His parents held multiple blue-collar jobs so their children could have the opportunities they never had. This is true for many Latinos.

Now let's talk about the real insult to Latinos. Playing politics with the immigration issue, making false promises that were not kept is an insult.

Consider this exchange between Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos, and Axelrod from the same interview:

Ramos: Do you think that President Barack Obama has a Hispanic problem? He broke a major campaign promise. He said that he was going to present an immigration bill. He didn't. He has deported more immigrants than any other president of the United States. Why should Latinos vote for him again if he didn't keep his promise the first time?

Axelrod: Well, let's be clear about the history here. The reason that we -- I was in the room, Jorge, when the president called together all of those who had worked on immigration reform in the past in his first year as president and he said, 'I will lock arms with you, Republicans and Democrats, to pass this bill.' In that room were many of the people who were among the 11 who supported comprehensive immigration reform under President Bush, but not one of them was willing to step forward and say, 'we will work with you on this bill,' because it was the policy of the Republican Party to pander to the nativist vote within their party and they --

Ramos: But he said he was going to present an immigration bill.

Axelrod: -- would not -- Jorge, the challenge --

Ramos: He promised. I mean, you know that he promised that.

Axelrod never answered the question.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who were in the meeting to which Axelrod referred, have told me they were ready and willing to work on immigration with Obama, but he never called again, never turned his words into an action plan.

Despite Congress being controlled by Democrats his first two years and despite his repeated promises, the president didn't offer up legislation. He didn't use the bully pulpit to push Congress.

Three years after he promised us "hope and change," the unemployment rate among Hispanics remains nearly 3 percentage points above the national average.

Broken promises. Unacceptable unemployment rates. That's insulting.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ana Navarro.

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