Mitt Romney's chance of winning the crucial swing state of Florida in November gets a boost if he selects either of two minority running mates, according to a poll released Tuesday.
Condoleezza Rice, former president George W. Bush's national security advisor and secretary of state, would raise Romney’s standing in Florida, putting him one percentage point ahead of President Barack Obama, according to a Public Policy Polling analysis. Selecting Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida would push Romney two percentage points ahead of the president in Florida, the poll found.
“Basically what we found is that if Romney wants things to pretty much stay the same, he can make the safe choice and pick one of the boring old white guys," said Tom Jensen, director of PPP. "But I think it’s pretty clear with his running-mate choice, if he wants it be a game-changer he is going to have to take a risk.”
Romney's GOP campaign faces particular challenges in the Sunshine State. He needs to energize the Republican Party’s increasingly white, older and shrinking conservative base, attract independent voters and make significant inroads with groups that include blacks and Latinos that have traditionally opted for Democratic candidates. By some estimates, Romney needs to win as much as 40 percent of the Latino vote in order to take the White House.
In Florida, home to a deeply diverse electorate, the nation’s third-largest pot of electoral college votes and unsettled political leanings, Obama clings to a slim lead. Among likely Florida voters, 48 percent said they would back Obama and 47 percent said they would vote for Romney, according to PPP. Both Obama’s slight lead over Romney and any boost Romney may see by picking Rice or Rubio fall within the poll’s 3.3 percent margin of error.
With the race in Florida a toss-up, Raleigh, N.C.-based PPP tested the names of five potential Romney running mates with 871 likely voters in the period from July 26 to July 29. Some people often described as the most likely vice presidential picks could actually harm Romney’s chances in Florida, the poll found.
With former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as Romney's running mate, Obama remained one percentage point ahead of Romney. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal put Obama ahead by three percentage points. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman would give Obama a four-point advantage.
Rice is regarded as an unlikely vice presidential pick because of her association with some of the Bush administration’s controversial actions,. including the U.S. invasion of Iraq in a failed search for weapons of mass destruction. She also has publicly said she supports women’s access to a full range of reproductive options.
Rubio, widely regarded as a rising star in Florida politics, has seen his national stature fade this summer after the Obama administration announced a change in deportation policy that sucked much of the air from an immigration reform proposal Rubio had promoted in Spanish and English news outlets but hasn't introduced in the Senate.
Adding either Rice or Rubio to the Romney ticket sliced Obama’s lead with Latino voters from 27 percentage points to 14, according to the PPP analysis. Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, may have particular appeal in Florida, with its large Cuban population. And Rice is a rare candidate with national appeal across party lines, said Jensen.
“At a time when we are so polarized as a country it is really rare for somebody to have that kind of universal appeal,” said Jensen.
Addressing The Republican National Convention
Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
At The Republican National Convention
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is surrounded by reporters during a tour of the convention floor at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Playful On A Romney Bus Tour
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At The Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS Breakfast
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Campaigning For Mitt Romney
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., signs a Romney sign for a supporter at a rally for presidential candidate Mitt Romney at C.C. Ronnow Elementary School in Las Vegas Saturday, July 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher) LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LAS VEGAS SUN OUT
With Mel Martinez At NALEO Conference
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At The XIX International AIDS Conference
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., accompanied by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a session entitled: 'The U.S. Congress and the Global AIDS Epidemic" Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
At the Council on Foreign Relations
US Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations May 31, 2012 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)
Addressing the Latino Coalition's Small Business Summit Luncheon
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Unveiling the bipartisan Startup Act 2.0
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Questioned by Marvin Kalb
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Campaigning with Mitt Romney
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Activists Protest Rubio's Support Of "Stand Your Ground" Law
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Protesting Rubio's policies on immigration
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Senate GOP And Democrats Discuss Supreme Court Oral Arguments On Affordable Care Act
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On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
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At CPAC 2012
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Being greeted at the 2012 Latino Coalition annual economic summit
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With David Rivera, Republican candidate for Congress
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Ceremonial Swearing-In Held For New Congress Members
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At news conference with Senators Lieberman and McCain on Syria
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Republican Senators Introduce FY2012 Budget Proposal
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