Part of the fun of working in PR is that you have to think ahead... play out scenarios and see where your vulnerabilities and strengths are. So just hear me out on this one. Play along for a few minutes. Consider this the GOP's own version of the "Dream Act."
Purely on paper a Martinez-Rubio ticket is a pretty compelling argument. True, there are a lot of reasons to outright dismiss the idea as unthinkable. But since we are only four months into the current president's second term, all discussions about 2016 are pretty much pointless doodles on paper (kind of what puppies leave all over the house). So why not have some fun and think the unthinkable?
Susana Martinez is clearly thinking about it: She recently visited Texas and Ohio, and will soon be in D.C. raising money, presumably for a 2014 re-election bid. But no politician thinks just one election ahead. Just like the rest of us, politicians have a career path to manage.
So here we go: A Martinez-Rubio ticket hits all the key demographics that Romney lost in 2012. She could eliminate, or drastically reduce, Hillary's potential advantage with women. Hillary would no longer be running as the first female presidential candidate for a major party, and the historic nature of two female candidates battling it out for the White House could energize women all across the political spectrum. We saw how much Sarah Palin invigorated conservative and independent women; just think about the potential turnout for a Clinton-Martinez match up. My guess is that women might feel like they have a real policy choice to make -- rather than just going for the "historic" candidate. They would both be "historic" candidates, neutralizing any potential gender advantage and putting the decision squarely in the policy arena. And let's not forget that Romney won the independent vote by a decisive margin. Martinez's business friendly, low-tax, anti-regulation, job-creation rhetoric gives many independent working-class voters what they want to hear (even if it doesn't produce any jobs).
In addition, having two conservative Hispanic candidates on the same ticket could seriously erode the Democrats' scary advantage with Hispanic voters -- and set the stage for a seismic shift by the GOP toward treating Hispanics as a serious constituency... and winning their votes for generations to come.
In a post-mortem of the Romney campaign, the Daily Caller pointed out that Romney could have won the popular vote with small or moderate swings in any one of the following key demographics: only four extra points from women, or only one extra point from the white vote, or by cutting Obama's lead with Hispanics in half. Chris Cillizza points out in Washington Post's The Fix blog that Romney could also have won the electoral college by turning 33 counties in four states.
It's easy to imagine how a Martinez-Rubio ticket could achieve not just one, but a combination of all of these: a few extra points from women, a few extra points from white lunch-bucket "Reagan Democrats," a hefty chunk of the Latin vote, a few more counties in key swing states.
Martinez could also likely get through the GOP primary process: She's a tax-cutting, budget-balancing, pro-life, law-and-order, business-loving, gun-loving conservative. She's on record supporting a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. She's one of Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies" and a supporter of the "traditional family." She also can address the immigration issue as a border-state governor, and a proponent of tough treatment on some of the GOP's favorite immigrant boogeymen -- e.g., "securing the border," and denying undocumented immigrants driver's licenses and in-state tuition.
That's not to say she wouldn't be challenged on a range of issues, like jobs, for one. New Mexico ranks near the bottom of all states in job creation, and her administration was recently forced to make a rare apology for misrepresenting the potential benefits of tax incentive package for business. Then again, the GOP base hasn't shown any desire to blame tax cutters for budget deficits and lack of job growth -- most believe that if deficits are growing but jobs aren't, then we should just cut taxes more.
Her contrarian position on Obamacare (she accepted the mandated Medicaid expansion), could hurt her with the base, but could also be an asset with independents. There is also the question of whether Martinez could effectively speak to foreign policy without making Palinesque gaffes -- e.g., saying she can see Mexico from her house.
And then there are a range of questions about Rubio, starting with his willingness to run as second banana. And while he sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence (presumably these are foreign policy strengths he would bring to the ticket), his foreign policy prescriptions have mostly earned him jeers rather than praises, except among the neo-con faithful.
The biggest question, however, is whether the GOP base could nominate a double-Hispanic ticket without their heads exploding. On paper, if these two candidates had nice white-sounding surnames, there's no question that they would be already on people's lips as the team to beat -- giving the GOP a chance to take back Florida, make a clean sweep of the Southwest and compete effectively across the mid- and mountain-West. But they aren't named Smith and Jones, or Walker and Bush.
So that's it. A Martinez-Rubio ticket is just as credible as any other. On paper -- with no faces and names attached -- they tick all the conservative boxes. Add in their demographic appeal and they cut into the Democrat's potentially decades-long advantage with women and Hispanic voters. But could GOP primary voters really tick a Martinez-Rubio box? And even if they do, could this team sell the GOP's policies any better than Mitt Romney did?