I’m still thinking over this post from David Frum. Frum argues that Republicans are unlikely to make large gains among Latino-Americans by putting Marco Rubio on the ticket and would be better off trying to win over Asian-Americans by nominating the Indian-American Jindal for Vice President. Frum is right that term Latino embraces lots of different national groups. I’m skeptical about how much putting the Cuban-American Rubio would help Romney with Mexican-American and Dominican-American voters is say Virginia. My sense is, if Rubio performs well and is seen as a credible vice presidential candidate, Romney might get a more sympathetic hearing among some non-Cuban-American Latinos. Whether that translates into a significant number of votes depends on the quality of Romney’s message and media strategy (and conditions most of all.)
But I don’t see how putting Jindal on the ticket helps very much with Asian-Americans as such. The term Latino conceals a lot of internal diversity, but the term Asian-American is even more problematic for these purposes . I’m not sure that picking Rubio will, in and of itself, help Romney with Mexican-Americans, but I see even less reason to believe that picking Jindal does anything to help Romney with Korean-Americans or Vietnamese-Americans. At the very least, there is a plausible argument that putting Rubio on the ticket would improve the Cuban-American turnout and Republican margins among Cuban-Americans in the key swing-state of Florida. I’m against using ethnic politics as a factor in picking a vice presidential candidate, but, to the extent that ethnic politics is any consideration, it cuts in favor of Rubio over Jindal
But it doesn’t matter. There are large downside risks in picking Rubio. Rubio has been a Senator for less than two years and has no executive experience. Yeah, I know Obama didn’t have a lot of federal experience either. But Obama spent 2008 running on a platform of middle-class tax cuts, and a whole bunch of new spending at the low price of repealing the Bush tax cuts and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies. What Obama was running on didn’t seem threatening to the median voter. Obama also had the advantages of a sitting Republican President with approval ratings in the low 30s and a financial crisis that could not have been better timed to benefit his campaign. Romney is running on some pretty major (and mostly not-at-all understood) entitlement reforms that will change the lives of millions of people. Good for Romney, but these policies are going to be a tough sell and Obama’s approval ratings are in the 46%-48% range. If Rubio comes off as a cynical gimmick choice, Romney’s image as the competent, realistic guy who can be trusted to do what needs to be done, is going to be damaged. Jindal’s record as an executive in cutting spending + improving government services + energy extraction + a lower-than-the-national-average unemployment rate is practically a ready made advertisement for Romney’s message.
Though, as a matter of rhetorical style and breadth of experience, I think I like Virginia governor Bob McDonnell better than either Rubio or Jindal.