Rubio’s Vet-aches
Could Charlie Crist’s old team end up vetting Rubio for Romney?

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.)


Jim Geraghty

Have some sympathy for the men and women who will receive serious consideration as a potential running mate and vice president to Mitt Romney. In the coming weeks and months, they will be asked to turn over every detail of their political, financial, and personal lives to a group of strangers. And — in the case of one potential running mate — some of those strangers spent the 2010 cycle attempting to beat him in a tense primary and general election.

From all appearances, Florida senator Marco Rubio and Romney hit it off well. Rubio’s endorsement of Romney effectively ended the Republican primary campaign; the senator is often deployed as a Romney surrogate on television and radio and Rubio appeared with Romney at a rally in Philadelphia on April 23. (The Romney campaign refused to say whether their staff has yet contacted any possible running mates about the selection process.)

Many suspect Rubio will make the cut; the benefits of a young, Cuban-American, telegenic, articulate conservative from a key swing state are obvious. But if Rubio accepts consideration from Romney — he repeatedly denies interest in being vice president — the Florida senator will be required to turn over enormous amounts of personal information to a campaign full of former employees of Rubio’s 2010 rival, former Florida governor Charlie Crist.

Romney’s chief strategists, Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, played the same roles on Crist’s senatorial campaign last cycle. Romney’s national press secretary, Andrea Saul, was Crist’s communications director. One of Romney’s regional press secretaries, Amanda Henneberg, was press secretary for Crist’s Senate campaign.

In the political world, Romney’s people are regarded as consummate professionals, and staffers’ changing bosses is part of the nature of campaign work. What’s more, some members of Rubio’s team are Romney veterans: Rubio’s chief of staff, Cesar Conda, and his deputy, Terry Sullivan, worked on Romney’s presidential campaign in 2008. Also, Romney adviser Albert Martinez served as a senior adviser to Rubio’s Senate campaign. (Beth Myers, Romney’s former chief of staff, is the official manager of Romney’s running-mate selection process.)

But Andrea Saul’s time with Crist has already garnered some attention. ABC News had fun looking through Saul’s comments on behalf of Crist, declaring that Rubio was a “wheeling and dealing Miami lobbyist and politician, always trying to scam the system for his personal benefit.” (Saul left the Crist campaign when the governor announced he was leaving the GOP and would run for the Senate seat as an independent.) If Rubio is on the 2012 ticket, it is likely that the Obama campaign would run some “even Romney’s own staffers say Marco Rubio is a no-good so-and-so” ads.

Any contender for the running-mate slot has to contemplate the risk of turning over all kinds of information — most of it innocuous, but certainly some potentially embarrassing or simply not for public eyes — to staffers who could end up working for some primary rival someday. In a perfect world, every campaign staffer would deserve trust, but the ghost of the McCain campaign haunts this cycle. Every potential running mate remembers frustrated, scapegoat-seeking McCain staffers leaking all kinds of negative information and anecdotes about Palin before and after Election Day 2008.