The vice presidential chatter around Marco Rubio intensified Friday evening when the Florida senator won a straw poll intended to test conservative inclinations about the best choice to be presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Sen. Rubio earned 30 percent of the vote in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll conducted in suburban Chicago at a one-day conference of the American Conservative Union, a national conservative advocacy group based in Washington. The summit attracted an estimated 2,000 people in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a distant second at 14 percent. US Rep. Paul Ryan (9 percent), US Sen. Rand Paul (8 percent), and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (7 percent) rounded out a list of 13 contenders, which included most of Mr. Romney’s former competition in this season’s Republican primary elections.
Rubio is a junior senator who supporters say makes an appealing presidential running mate because he has direct appeal to Latino voters. Plus, his 2010 senate campaign featured significant support from the tea party, a faction of the conservative movement that’s yet to embrace Romney whole heartedly.
For his part, Rubio has played down his potential role on the Romney ticket, at first saying he does not expect to be asked and later saying he would refuse if the opportunity were presented.
“I don’t want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever,” he told an audience at an event hosted by the National Review in April. Still, he made a verbal slip: “Three, four, five, six, seven years from now, if I do a good job as vice president — I’m sorry, as a senator,” he said, laughing after correcting himself.
Despite only being in the US Senate since January 2011, Rubio has been active in GOP fundraising circles in which he has actively attacked President Obama for what he describes as failed campaign promises and policies. In late May at a party fundraiser in South Carolina, he told the audience Obama is the most “divisive figure in modern American history.”
Rubio also is marketing his version of the “Dream Act,” which would provide visas to undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children so they can attend school or work. Unlike the bill sponsored by Democrats, the Rubio version does not provide a pathway to eventual citizenship. Pushing the bill is considered a threat to the Obama campaign because critics say the president has largely been silent on the issue since taking office.
Notably at the bottom of CPAC’s vice presidential polling was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, currently riding a wave of popularity in his party after surviving a contentious and historic recall election Tuesday.
Gov. Walker polled at just 2 percent Friday. Many in his party say Walker’s win this week assures his role as a surrogate on the campaign trail for Romney this summer and fall, and some have not ruled out a spot for him on Romney’s short list of potential vice presidential candidates.
However, Walker said this week he is not interested in the job.
When asked in a CNN interview if he would accept the invitation, he responded by recommending US Rep. Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite and chairman of the House Budget Committee.
“After a year and a half worth of [fighting the recall], I want to help Wisconsin move forward,” Walker said.
Neither Walker nor Romney attended the summit Friday.
Walker’s success in Wisconsin was referenced in several speeches made throughout the day and directed at Obama.
“Mr. President, did you hear Scott Walker won in a landslide? It’s hard for me to say that without gloating. I wonder if it worries anybody at Team Obama. I think it might,” said US Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.