Politics & Policy

Rubio on the Race

He backs Romney, but seeks to quell veep rumors.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) spoke with NRO this morning about his endorsement of Mitt Romney, the signal he’s sending on  the oral arguments at the Supreme Court about Obamacare, and his idea for a revised version of the DREAM Act.

NRO: So, why Romney?

Senator Rubio: First of all, I have not gotten involved in the primaries. I think it has been a good thing to have a primary; I have talked about primaries as a good thing for our party. I would never ask someone to not be in a primary or to drop out. God knows plenty of people asked me to drop out, and we all saw how that turned out. We’ve had a primary, but now the two principal opponents to Governor Romney have both admitted that they can’t win the primary, that their only potential path to victory is a floor fight at the convention in Tampa in August.

Our number-one goal has to be to replace Barack Obama. My overriding goal here is a new occupant in the White House. Without a new president, we can’t get a repeal and replace of Obamacare passed, we can’t get tax reform, we can’t save Medicare, we can’t undo the catastrophic cuts to national defense. If Obama is reelected president, none of those things is going to happen. So we have to replace him.

No one can convince me that a floor fight in August in Tampa makes it likelier that we beat Barack Obama. On the contrary, a floor fight in Tampa diminishes the chances of beating Obama nine weeks later in November. Certainly in Florida it does. I can just talk about Florida, that if we have a floor fight at the convention, there is no way, given the way the media covers politics today, that it will put us in a better position to win in November. And if we don’t win Florida, it’s hard to think we can win the presidency.

Given all that, and given the fact that by their own admission his opponents can’t win the primary, it’s time for us to say Romney is winning the primary fair and square, and to line up behind our nominee to defeat Barack Obama.

NRO: I notice in that answer you didn’t say a lot about Romney himself.

Rubio: I’m a big admirer of his. I’ve known him since 2007. As I said last night, I think he did a very good job as governor of a very important and diverse state. He’s also been very successful in the private sector, private enterprise, and that’s a rare combination in American politics. The most important job of a president is to be a good decision-maker, and someone who has been successful in both politics and business is clearly a good decision-maker.

I’m an admirer of his, and I think he’ll be a fine president. He’ll be a significant upgrade over the person who is president now.

NRO: Did you vote in the Florida primary?

Rubio: I did.

NRO: Did you vote for Romney?

Rubio: I always keep my primary votes a secret, unless I’m openly endorsing, because then it’s a cute way of saying I endorsed or I didn’t. Unless I’m endorsing in a primary, I never announce who I voted for.

NRO: Were you tempted, at any point, to formally endorse earlier?

Rubio: No, I thought primaries were good, and I think the primary has been exactly what I thought it would be, a way to make our party stronger in the long run. Like all primaries, it has forced our candidates to address the issues and take specific positions on the campaign trail. Voters have something to hold you accountable to [once you’re in office]. I think Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have a lot to be proud of, and they have made contributions to the Republican party and our chances of winning in November. To some, all the back-and-forth may seem painful in March and February, but I think in October it’s going to make us a stronger party. Both of these candidates have contributed greatly; they have nothing to be ashamed of, and a lot to be proud of. This is not anything personal about either of them. But I think once they both admitted that the only path to victory was a floor fight in August, I felt that it was time to get behind the winner of our primary, and that’s Mitt Romney.

NRO: So . . . you’re probably sick of being asked questions about being someone’s running mate.

Rubio: I guess I’m flattered that people ask about it — people don’t usually ask that about someone who they don’t think is credible.

But it’s not going to happen. My answer on that issue hasn’t changed.

NRO: When you say it’s not going to happen, do you mean you don’t expect to be asked, or that if offered, you would turn it down?

Rubio: When you say it’s not going to happen and you’re not interested, they’re not going to ask. You don’t ask somebody to be your vice president who has already said they’re not interested. It doesn’t work that way, as you well know. There’s a process to selecting a vice president. It’s not like asking someone to go to the prom. This is a very significant decision that involves a lengthy process. If you’re not involved in that process because you’ve made it clear you’re not interested, you’re not going to be asked.

NRO: So this is you sending a signal, “don’t ask.”

Rubio: I’m focused on some other things going on right now. Particularly some issues that I look forward to being involved with in a majority in the Senate, if, God willing, we’re able to win in November.

NRO: Have you followed the coverage of the oral arguments about Obamacare before the Supreme Court?

Rubio: I have.

NRO: Each day, [CNN analyst] Jeffrey Toobin seems to come out with an assessment that looks worse and worse for the Obama administration. Obviously oral arguments are not the same as final decisions, and we don’t know what the final result will be, but are you surprised at how the oral arguments have gone? And could the Obamacare issue look different in November because the Supreme Court has said part of it or all of it has got to go?

Rubio: I believe Obamacare is unconstitutional, so I won’t be surprised if the court finds it to be unconstitutional. I can’t predict what they’re going to do. They’re very smart at justifying the positions they ultimately reach, even if it’s one I don’t agree with. I don’t know how they’re going to rule but I expect them to say that it’s unconstitutional, because I think it’s pretty clear that it is.

As a policymaker, I know for a fact that Obamacare has been horrible for our country, and we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. More and more Americans are going to lose their existing coverage. The costs of Obamacare are going to continue to climb. More and more states are going to be forced closer to bankruptcy, because Medicare rolls are going to expand. Fewer and fewer people are going to go into medicine or health care, because government will more and more be in charge of it. All of these repercussions are going to come to bear here fairly soon. The more we learn about Obamacare, the worse it looks. Regardless of what the Supreme Court does, we have to repeal and replace it.

NRO: I saw that you are offering what is being characterized as a revised or reformed version of the DREAM Act, and I notice the editors of the New York Times didn’t like it. I’m sure their lack of approval stuns you and has you all torn up inside. Could you walk us through your proposal and how it differs from previous versions?

Rubio: Well, we don’t have a formal proposal yet; all we’ve discussed is concepts. I think the vast majority of Americans understand that if you were four years old when you were brought here, you grew up in this country your whole life, and you’re now a valedictorian of a high school or are a high-achieving academic person, and have much to contribute to our future, I think most Americans, the vast majority of Americans find that compelling and want to accommodate that.

The problem is that all of the existing policy proposals that are out there like the DREAM Act create amnesty. They create incentives for illegal immigration, chain migration, and all sorts of problems. What I have said is that I believe we can deal with these kids and these circumstances without making all of the DREAM Act’s mistakes.

That’s what I have talked about. There’s no specific proposal, but I hope that it will be bipartisan, although I doubt it will be. As the New York Times has shown, writing an editorial denouncing a piece of legislation that doesn’t exist yet, the Democrats and the Left are terrified of losing this issue. They don’t want to solve this issue; they want this issue to remain out there because they want to use it as a political tool. If and when we are able to come up with a conservative-Republican alternative DREAM Act that deals with the issues of these kids without undermining our heritage as a nation of laws, when we do that, we are going to expose the political reality behind this.

There are many on the left who want this issue to stick around, because they want to use it for political gain. They’re not nearly as interested in solving it from a policy perspective. Not all — I’m not saying all of them. I’m sure there are many who legitimately want to address this issue. We’ll see soon enough who’s who around here.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.