A Bush/Rubio ticket would be complicated, not impossible
The potential 2016 ticket of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio also would seem well-positioned to respond to what was an obvious weakness diagnosed in the Republican National Committee’s post-mortem on the party’s 2012 loss – its dismal performance among Latinos.
Both Bush and Rubio are Catholics. Both are fluent Spanish speakers. One is the child of Cuban immigrants; one is married to a native of Mexico. Both have indicated support for the party’s priority of increased border security, but they also have talked about expanded visas and offering some pathway to citizenship for those already here illegally (though the details of their specific plans differ).
None of these qualities are likely to endear them to the base, but they could matter significantly in a general election, particularly given that the party’s Latino support has continued to slide from a recent 2004 peak, even as Latinos’ share of the electorate continues to rise.
In 2000, George W. Bush won 35 percent of the Latino vote, which then constituted just 5.68 percent of the electorate. In 2004, he won 44 percent of the Latino vote, which had grown to 7.02 percent of the electorate. In 2008, John McCain, who has supported immigration reform, took 31 percent of the Latino vote, which by then was 8.22 percent of the electorate. In 2012, Mitt Romney took just 27 percent of the Latino vote, which was then 9.21 percent of the electorate.
In 2016, the Latino share of the electorate is expected to be even larger. Partly, this is because the community continues to grow as a share of the population. But analysts also project relative strengthening due to expectations that the African-American community’s share of the electorate will shrink from the record turnout seen in 2008 and 2012 for the election and reelection of Barack Obama.
For a Republican to win in 2016, he (and it will be a he, barring a very longshot candidacy from Carly Fiorina) likely will have to at least come close to winning 40 percent of the Latino vote. As polling by the group Latino Decisions shows, even Bush and Rubio aren’t quite there yet, but they are in better shape than much of the field (including Ted Cruz, who also is of Cuban extraction) and they at least are outpolling Romney’s final numbers, which is a big first step:
There’s also the fact that both Bush and Rubio have won statewide election and remain popular in the most crucial swing state – Florida. While the GOP has won Florida a couple times in years when they didn’t win the big enchilada (in 1960 and 1992), the last time the Republican Party won the presidential election without winning Florida was in 1924, when the much-smaller state had only six electoral votes.
Aye, but there’s the rub.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which both creates the executive branch and lays out the process for selecting the leaders of that branch (the president and vice president), states clearly that:
The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.
This requirement is generally summarized as: “the president and vice president can’t be from the same state.” That’s not quite true.
In the original setup, the Electoral College would simply cast two votes, and the candidate with the most votes would be named president, while the one with the second-most votes would be named vice president. John Adams was named vice president after finishing second to George Washington (who received unanimous Electoral College support) in 1788. In 1792, Washington was the nominee of both major parties, effectively making the ballot a vice presidential race between Adams and New York Gov. George Clinton. In the election of 1796, there were seven Federalists candidates (including Adams, who became president) and four Democratic-Republican candidates (including Thomas Jefferson, who became vice president).
The election of 1800, in which the Democratic-Republican “ticket” of Jefferson and Aaron Burr completely defeated the Federalist ticket of Adams and Charles Pinckney, was the first to resemble our modern elections. And in 1804, the 12th Amendment was passed, making the presidential and vice presidential selections two separate races.
But the amendment kept intact the original language preserving the requirement that binds electors to “meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for president and vice president, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.”
What this means in practice is that, should Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio run as a ticket, electors from the State of Florida would be prohibited from casting a ballot for both of them. Cue sad trombone:
Of course, in most years, this wouldn’t actually matter. Of all the presidential elections since 1900, only the 2000 and 2004 races were sufficiently close that the winning candidate wouldn’t still have prevailed if he had lost his home state. (The 1916 election between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Hughes was awfully close, separated by just 23 electors. But in that case, Wilson did actually lose his nominal home state of New Jersey. Had he also lost his birth state of Virginia, on the other hand, that would have swung the election to Hughes.)
Even in a very close 2016 race, provided the margin of victory is at least 29 electoral votes, the Florida delegation could go “faithless” and select some other candidate for vice president. So long as it wasn’t the Democratic vice presidential nominee, it wouldn’t matter. But it seems pretty clear Republicans wouldn’t want to take the risk that they might need Florida’s 29 electoral votes – accounting for more than 5 percent of the total – to go to both Bush AND Rubio if they are to have any hope of seating both.
If the GOP were to roll the dice and move forward with a Bush-Rubio ticket anyway, any number of wacky scenarios could theoretically ensue. You could see the Electoral College decline to vote for vice president, which would throw that election to the U.S. Senate, or decline to vote for president, which would throw that race to the U.S. House. In an extreme scenario, the Florida Republican Party could technically only nominate electors who live outside of the state and who would not face the same limitation in casting ballots for both Bush and Rubio.
But none of these fanciful suggestions are likely to transpire. Instead, the easiest path would be for either Bush or Rubio to change his official state of residence. Indeed, that’s precisely what happened in 2000, when Dick Cheney changed his state of residence from Texas to his home state of Wyoming.
Of the two, it probably makes more sense for Bush to change his state of residence. He appears to be thoroughly done with his Florida political career, whereas Rubio could still be ripe for future office should the whole presidential/vice presidential thing not pan out. Moreover, Bush is already a transplant. He was born in Houston to a political dynasty with origins in Connecticut and New Jersey.
In fact, it so happens that Bush just spent $600,000 to build his own 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom “cottage” on the family’s compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Proximity to New Hampshire probably plays some role in that decision. But one can’t help but notice that it sure does also offer a convenient contingency plan, should he want to bring Marco aboard as a running mate.