Adding Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to the GOP ticket would deliver the key swing state to Republicans by a 46 percent to 41 percent margin over President Obama, a new poll has found.
But any GOP candidate who ran without Mr. Rubio by his side would fail to give the party a decisive edge in the presidential vote if the election were held today, according to a David Paleologos poll for Suffolk University/7NEWS-Miami. The poll of 800 registered Florida voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Mr. Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, is a fluent Spanish speaker who can appeal to the state's Hispanic community and is widely seen as one of the party's rising stars. He has said he is not interested in the vice presidency, but that has not quieted speculation about the future of the first-term senator and former speaker of the Florida House.
"Rubio secures Florida which, along with Ohio, is one of the two most important swing states to win," said Mr. Paleologos. "He also helps Republican chances in New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona and Nevada, which have high Hispanic populations."
Without Mr. Rubio in the mix, Mr. Obama ties former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 42 percent in Florida and leads Herman Cain (42-39), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (46-34), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (44-32) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (45-38).
His appeal to Hispanics would complicate Mr. Obama's efforts to hold on to other states he won in 2008 such as Nevada and Colorado, Mr. Paleologos said in an interview. And he improves GOP prospects markedly in Florida regardless of who emerges at the top of the ticket.
"At the very least, the poll suggests Rubio's presence makes a difference of a minimum plus 4 percentage points more for the Republican ticket in Florida over any other scenario with Rubio out of the picture."
Mr. Paleologos noted that New Mexico, which Mr. Obama won handily in 2008, has twice as many Hispanic voters on a percentage basis compared to Florida, amounting to about a third of the state's likely voters.
Mr. Rubio "could have a serious impact there," the pollster said.
Mr. Rubio's presence on the GOP ticket makes the electoral map much closer for the GOP and forces the Democrats into a do-or-die battle to win Ohio, a state with a struggling economy.
The new poll also suggests that replacing Vice President Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would also be a major game-changer. With her as his running mate, Mr. Obama would defeat any Republican ticket in Florida, with or without Mr. Rubio, although once again the senator's presence would make the race too close to call.
"In the marquee match-up of an Obama-Clinton ticket versus a GOP ticket with Rubio as vice president, Obama leads 46 percent to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided," Mr. Paleologos said.
"In Florida, Marco Rubio is Superman, but Hillary Clinton is the kryptonite."
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