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Romney, don't snub Rubio

By John Avlon, CNN Contributor
updated 10:12 AM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Sen. Marco Rubio should be on Mitt Romney's list for VP, says John Avlon.
Sen. Marco Rubio should be on Mitt Romney's list for VP, says John Avlon.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Avlon: There's a report that Romney team decided not to vet Marco Rubio for VP
  • He says that Rubio should be a candidate, would help Romney gain electoral votes
  • Avlon says bad blood between a Romney adviser and Rubio is no reason to exclude him
  • Obama camp would likely be relieved if it doesn't have to face Rubio, Avlon says

Editor's note: John Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He is co-editor of the book "Deadline Artists: America's Greatest Newspaper Columns." He is a regular contributor to "Erin Burnett OutFront" and is a member of the OutFront Political Strike Team. For more political analysis, tune in to "Erin Burnett OutFront" at 7 ET weeknights.

New York (CNN) -- Marco Rubio not even being considered for VP? That would be political malpractice from the Romney campaign. But that's the word coming from high-placed campaign sources, according to ABC's Jonathan Karl.

Aside from placing a serious damper on Rubio's book tour for his new memoir "American Son," the statement doesn't make a lot of sense. In any back-of-the-napkin list of VP considerations, Rubio certainly should be on the short list, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

Why? Swing state power, generational balance and a much needed dose of diversity that can help close the critical Latino gap that strongly favors President Obama over Mitt Romney.

John P. Avlon
John P. Avlon

Not including Marco Rubio even in the vetting process is a needless insult that indicates either over-confidence in Romney's prospects in Florida or a decision to pursue another path to 270 electoral votes. Alternately, maybe it means Jeb Bush is back in the VP consideration set.

Yes, picking Rubio would contain some risks in the post-Palin world. He's been a U.S. senator for less than two years, but he previously led the Florida state legislature, where he helped shepherd Jeb Bush's legislative agenda. And he would provide enthusiasm for Romney, especially among the tea party set, and he could help tip as many as three critical swing states -- not just Florida but Hispanic-rich Nevada and New Mexico, with a cool 40 electoral votes between them.

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So why not include him on a short list? Perhaps the answer lies in Stuart Stevens, the Romney campaign's epically interesting chief strategist. Stevens is a Mississippi maverick -- a sometime author, libertine and extreme athlete.

Most relevant to this instance, he also served as strategist for former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who Rubio trounced in a hotly contested 2010 election. Bad blood between warring camps doesn't just fade away overnight, and in some cases it grows more malignant with time. In contrast, Rob Portman is a biking buddy of Stevens. Don't kid yourself -- in politics, personal relationships matter almost more than anything else.

The expanded list of possible Romney VP nominees could be rounded out to include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and freshman New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

The Romney camp has been trying to bait reporters with the idea that it could announce a veep pick well in advance of the Tampa convention, but what's the hurry? Better to do it right and at least cultivate the impression of the GOP with a deep bench of diversity and talent than just offering up an old white guy sandwich without thinking.

Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party who will likely impact American politics for decades to come.

Advancing him to VP might be going too far too fast, especially for the quintessentially sober-minded Romney. But ignoring the real benefits Rubio could bring to the Republican ticket doesn't make a whole lot of sense, except for the Obama camp, which will likely breathe a sigh of relief if they don't have to juggle their strategy to deal with such an audacious, electoral-map adjusting move.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.

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