The Republican presidential candidates at last night's debate were dropping the names of Floridian public figures as quickly as they could come up with them. In response to a question about Hispanic Americans the candidates would consider for their Cabinets, everyone (except Ron Paul) started rattling off names ranging from Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez.
But Newt Gingrich -- fresh off telling the Space Coast he wants to build a colony on the moon -- one-upped the field yet again. While the other candidates were talking about rehiring Carlos Gutierrez, Miami's favorite breakfast magnate turned Cabinet member, Gingrich said he was considering Florida Sen. Marco Rubio "in a slightly more dignified and central role than being in the Cabinet, but that's another conversation."
Well, there it is. Rubio looked pretty banged up after he got caught lying about his parents fleeing Castro, but now here's a bunch of Republicans clamoring to stuff him in their Cabinets and one trying to give him that soft, plush vice president's chair.
The oddsmakers, of course, saw this coming -- Rubio has long been the favorite in online prop bets for the VP nomination even though he went on television last October and actually told everybody, "I am not going to be the vice presidential nominee." Even Marco Rubio suspects Marco Rubio doesn't bring anything to a ticket, but damned if people aren't going to daydream about it.
Gingrich and Rubio have spent the past few days hitting on each other on television -- after Rubio publicly disagreed with a Gingrich attack ad calling Romney "anti-immigrant," Gingrich immediately yanked the ad "out of respect for Sen. Rubio." Rubio responded by going on CBS yesterday morning to do some mainstream-media ego-fluffing, saying, "I've known Speaker Gingrich a long time. I'm an admirer of his." He didn't wink on camera, but we get the sense he was dying to.
The Cabinet question wasn't the only time Rubio was brought up at the debate either -- when Gingrich failed to defend the "anti-immigrant" attack ad, Romney did everything short of swing in from the rafters with a baseball bat, calling Gingrich's rhetoric "repulsive" and "inexcusable" and saying, "I'm glad that Marco Rubio called you out on it." Then the two candidates argued about something having to do with deporting grandmothers for what seemed like four hours.
While we won't know for a while whether Gingrich was being serious or just trying to woo Florida Republicans, it'll certainly be interesting to see how things shake out down the line -- Gingrich is eight points behind Romney in the latest Florida poll, but Gingrich isn't the only one who might be looking (or at least pretending to look) at Florida's junior senator.
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