How Marco Rubio could cost Biden the election

Rubio offers Latinos the chance to vote for one of their own to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.


Pennsylvania has been political ground zero in presidential elections for nearly a quarter-century, and 2024 will be no different. Joe Biden carried his birth state by almost 82,000 votes in 2020, and will need to win it again this year.

As a native Pennsylvanian, I have confidence that he can. But my confidence can be shaken. There is one person on Donald Trump’s reported shortlist of running mates who has the ability to carve a Pennsylvania-shaped slice out of the so-called blue wall of rust belt states that Democratic presidential candidates typically need to win: Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

That sound you’re hearing is the collective explosion of heads from my friends in the Democratic Party, followed by admonitions that “Latinos do not vote as a monolith.” That’s true: Cuban, Venezuelan, Dominican and Mexican Americans, as well as Puerto Ricans, do not vote in unison.

But there is something Latino voters have in common: their Latin American roots and the pride that comes from casting a vote for someone who looks and talks like them. Mr. Rubio would break a significant cultural barrier as the first Latino on a national ticket. We’ve seen how that feeling of cultural and identity pride can marshal voters and transcend ideological and partisan preferences, and it should never be underestimated.

Seldom do running mates play an outsized role in our presidential contests, as most voters focus on the top of the ticket. But Mr. Rubio gives Mr. Trump something no other presidential candidate has offered — the chance for Latinos to vote for one of their own to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Mr. Rubio could help the ticket in Nevada, where he spent a formative chunk of his adolescence and where his parents worked as a maid and a bartender in Las Vegas, or another marginal Biden state with a large Latino population, such as Arizona.

(Fears of the 12th Amendment complicating a Rubio selection seem overblown to me. Just as Dick Cheney in July 2000 switched his residency to Wyoming since his running mate, George W. Bush, was also a Texan, Mr. Rubio could establish residency outside Florida, leaving Mr. Trump as the sole Floridian on the ticket.)

To understand just how much of a threat Mr. Rubio would pose to Democrats, let’s consider the conventional wisdom: Mr. Trump is likely to win back some Sun Belt states he lost in 2020, while Mr. Biden is holding his own in the Rust Belt. But if Mr. Biden loses Pennsylvania, it would almost certainly be curtains for his campaign.

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