North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

May 18, 2012

Steve Flowers: Romney should pick Rubio for his running mate

By Steve Flowers
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — The official start of the fall campaign begins on Labor Day, which is Sept. 3 this year, and culminates with Election Day on Nov. 6.

With Obama heading the ticket for the Democratic Party, most Alabamians will probably simply pull the lever of either the Democratic or Republican Party. My guess is that more folks will pull the Republican lever than the Democratic one in November. My prediction is that the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, will carry the Heart of Dixie by a 63 to 37 margin. That, my friends, is what is called in political vernacular a landslide.

 The GOP candidate’s victory in Alabama is a foregone conclusion. The Deep South is now the base of the Republican Party. Since 1964 the GOP nominee has carried Alabama 10 out of 12 times. A Democrat, Georgia neighbor Jimmy Carter, won here in 1976 and native son George Wallace carried Alabama and the other Deep South states as an independent in 1968. The Republican candidate has carried the state in the past eight presidential contests going back 36 years.

 We are not the only state that has a predetermined outcome. Actually, under our Electoral College system of selecting a president, about 40 other states are irrelevant in the process. There are about 10 swing states that will decide who sits in the White House for the next four years. The most prominent and important is Florida.

 The clear and obvious choice for Mitt Romney’s running mate is Florida freshman U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Any other choice would be a monumental mistake. It is as plain as the nose on his face, and if Rubio has any reluctance to join the ticket, the party hierarchy should convince him otherwise.

 Rubio is a 40-year-old telegenic son of Cuban exiles. He is very popular in his home state and would assure the GOP nominee of Florida’s essential electoral votes. Rubio’s presence on the ticket not only brings Florida into the fold, his Hispanic heritage gives Romney the edge in the battleground states of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. If Romney carries Florida, along with three of these four swing states, he more than likely wins the election. The choice of Rubio is not only prudent and pragmatic, it is probably imperative.

 The straight-ticket Republican voting in Alabama will be so pronounced in the fall that it will be very difficult for any Democratic candidate to win statewide.

 We are a very conservative state, but allow me to share with you a perception. This observation stems from the second bingo trial, which ended a few months ago. If there had been an effort to put a lottery referendum on the November general election ballot, my belief is that it would pass in Alabama. Since the last vote over a decade ago, there has been an incremental acquiescence towards the acceptance of gambling as a revenue source even among Republican voters.

 A lottery would win. However, Alabama has probably missed the boat on deriving significant resources from a lottery. We would only get dollars from our own state pockets because almost every state in the nation, as well as every one of our adjoining sister states, have approved gambling measures for state revenue.

 It became apparent to me that legalized electronic bingo would also probably be approved in addition to a lottery. As I observed the jury selection process during the bingo trial, there was an amazing revelation. The following question was posed to a pool of 50 prospective jurors: “How many of you gamble online, or have gone to a casino either in Biloxi or to one of Alabama’s Indian casinos?”

Easily four out of five raised their hands in the affirmative. Even more illuminating and amazing was that among those, 80 percent were older white men who had acknowledged they were Tea Party members, and older white women who attended church weekly and read The Alabama Baptist regularly.

Steve Flowers is one of Alabama’s leading political columnists. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.