The 2012 presidential field is not all that impressive. Romney has RomneyCare. Newt Gingrich has Speaker Gingrich. And Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has a race issue and a does-not-know-anything-about-important-topics issue. But if we look beyond the field, there are plenty to impress.
Gov. Scott Walker is gaining popularity within the GOP for standing up to public-employee unions. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has mastered the art of governing and the game of playing the national media like a violin. And then there is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
He has eschewed national media. He has become an expert at grilling nominees (mostly recently the State Department’s William Burns on Libya and our hapless trade representative). And he has focused on rather few issues that have importance in his home state as well as for the nation as a whole.
His Friday column for NRO is a prime example. He wrote:
Approving free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea would be a boon to our economy, create jobs for Floridians, and help solidify our alliances with these steadfast allies. The agreements with Colombia and Panama in particular would boost Florida’s economy, where over 1 million Floridians remain out of work. Unfortunately, the president has inexplicably allowed these golden economic opportunities to languish by not submitting the deals to Congress for up-or-down votes.
An unacceptable consequence of America taking our Latin American neighbors for granted is that China, among other nations, has capitalized on our complacency, signed their own deals, and made great strides to surpass America as the region’s leading trade partner. . . .
Our Latin American allies are not going to wait around forever for America to get its act together. During the president’s trip to Latin America, I hope his eyes will be opened to the reality that the void of sustained, proactive American engagement in Latin America is being filled by other nations who recognize the opportunities in the region. Although he is not even visiting Colombia and Panama next week, meeting face-to-face with their leaders and telling them what it will take for these agreements to earn his support, I hope the president understands the economic and strategic consequences of pursuing his job-destroying policy of trade inaction.
Moreover, as with trade, he’s chosen issues on which the administration is particularly weak — free trade, fiscal discipline and human rights.
Rubio is not running for president. But come September of 2012 when the nominee is searching for a vice presidential candidate, keep an eye out. The GOP could (and might well) do worse than to have a brainy, young, Hispanic conservative on the ticket.