As the GOP race for the presidential nomination slogs on, pollsters are shifting gears and focusing on the next nomination — the one to fill the VP slot.
Pollsters seem to agree that a strategic pick will be whoever can help frontrunner Mitt Romney snag swing states in the November election against Barack Obama. [See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican party.]
GOP pollster Whit Ayres told reporters Thursday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that while Romney should chose a veep candidate based on who is capable of stepping into the role of president, he has one client who could really redefine the 2012 race.
"[He] has told me and everybody else that he is not the least bit interested in being the vice presidential nominee, but if something should happen and Marco Rubio ends up on the ticket, Florida becomes an even tougher uphill climb," Ayres says.
Ayres calls Rubio "the Michael Jordan of American politics," praising him for his natural grace as a politician — a trait Ayres says could add charisma into Romney's campaign.
"Is [Romney] a great natural politician? No, not even he would argue that," Ayres says.
Rubio could pull in the Latino vote in areas outside of Florida too, Ayres says, which is growing rapidly and is a major area of concern for GOP demographers.
"We are not stupid. I mean we can count," Ayres says. "And, it is pretty obvious that we can't continue to lose Latinos 2-to-1 like we did in 2008 and remain competitive as a national party."
In 1980 when former president Ronald Reagan was elected, 88 percent of the electorate was white. In 2008, 74 percent was. [See photos of President Obama's re-election campaign.]
Of course, Ayres says Rubio is not the only guy for the job.
"Right across the river, Bob McDonnell has done an incredible job," Ayres says. "In one year, he turns a deficit into a surplus. Things just seem to get done that are good for the state without lots of fuss."
It is unlikely that Virginia governor McDonnell would help much with the Latino vote, but his budget expertise combined with his background in another critical swing state makes him a strong contender.
"I think, should Governor Romney win the nomination, he will have a wealth of exciting, competent choices that will help him and help the country," Ayres says.