I’ve covered Rubio for years now, and have found him to be impressive. But if his goal was to help unite the party, he got the timing wrong. By holding out longer, and agreeing to be Romney’s running mate later, he could have served an important function as the bridge between the GOP establishment and the tea party/grassroots conservative base.
But this move seems to deprive Romney of the ceremonial, but very important, gesture of uniting the GOP establishment and conservatives by picking Rubio as a concession.
This doesn’t make sense. Movement conservatives are falling all over themselves practically begging Romney to select Rubio as his running mate, because many of them are so bizarrely enamored of the idea of promoting an unqualified junior Senator too rapidly on the national stage. That means that many movement conservatives have extraordinary confidence in Rubio and his judgment, and they attach great significance to what he says and does. All the movement conservative hero-worship directed towards him has given him much more influence than most other rising national Republican figures.
It’s debatable whether Rubio isn’t already a member of the so-called party establishment. After all, he is Jeb Bush’s apprentice and the former speaker of the Florida House. For whatever reason, he isn’t perceived that way. That’s one of the things that gives Rubio political space to endorse Romney without jeopardizing his credibility with his conservative fans. Rubio’s endorsement makes it easier for movement conservatives to accept Romney. Unlike other national Republicans, Rubio has been mythologized as a great conservative insurgent hero, and movement conservatives have invested so much time and energy in building Rubio up that he can support Romney without fear of being accused of selling out. One of the consequences of the excessive idolizing of Rubio is that he can more easily ignore movement conservative objections when he does something that some of them don’t like.