When Paul Ryan said he really, definitely, for sure isn't running for president in 2012 this week, the Weekly Standard was brokenhearted. The conservative magazine's editor, Bill Kristol, bravely blogged from his beach vacation that he would remain "cheerful if disappointed," and wondered, "how about Rubio-Ryan?" What excellent timing for Sen. Marco Rubio -- the comment came just a day before he gave a speech honoring Ronald Reagan, where Rubio just so happened to catch Nancy Reagan as she was about to tumble to the ground. Visual metaphor alert! Rubio is the latest It Boy among conservatives dissatisfied with the current 2012 lineup. Too bad he does not want to rescue the party the way he rescued Mrs. Reagan.
At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California Tuesday night, Rubio told Politico's Scott Wong regarding speculation, "They have to talk about somebody." But he's not going to return the favor: "I'm not going to talk about vice president. I'm certainly not going to start speculating about 2016 and presidential stuff." Naturally, that's a cue for everyone else to start speculating.
Wednesday, The Washington Post's Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner wondered, "How soon is too soon?" Rubio was, after all, elected only last fall, though he has an extensive resume from the Florida state legislature. Rubio insisting he won't be on a 2012 ticket "isn't likely to do much to stop the speculation next year," they write, especially if the nominee is "an older, more establishment pick" like Mitt Romney. Plus, "if sincerely asked by your party’s presidential nominee, it's hard to turn down the No. 2 job." Indeed, last month Romney floated Rubio's name as a possible running mate.
Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo told the Post that Rubio is like Reagan in 1968 -- not quite ready to be president after two years as California governor."I didn't feel this way at the time, but Reagan used those eight years (as governor) to learn a lot of those things about governing that he didn't know," Russo told the Post. And pollster Whit Ayers told Wong, "Watching Marco Rubio in politics reminds me of watching Michael Jordan play basketball at North Carolina... They are just playing at a different level than most other people in the game."
Like President Obama was in 2007, Rubio is a fresh face in the Senate with a shortish resume but broad appeal. And like Obama, The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis points out, Rubio is begining to attract his own birthers -- those who claim Rubio can't be president because he's not a natural born citizen. (He is.)