Marco Rubio has said he’s not interested in being vice president. Repeatedly.
Rubio has been positioning himself over the past week as the front person in a fight with President Obama over contraceptive coverage.
Rubio, a Catholic, introduced legislation that would exempt Catholic institutions from mandatory birth control coverage and promoted it in multiple news releases, calling it a fight for “religious freedom.” He defended his position in a New York Post op-ed.
Churches are exempted from the ruling, but church-run schools, hospitals charities and other organizations are not.
Conservatives have rallied against the legislation, arguing that it’s a sign of Obama’s hostility toward religion. Some liberal Catholics argue that Obama is leaving himself unnecessarily open to such criticism and could lose Catholic support in 2012.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon with a moderate past, is not the ideal candidate to inspire those voters — having Rubio on the ticket would give him cover with social conservatives.
But it could make Rubio a more polarizing figure in the long run.
Contraception coverage is broadly popular — 77 percent of Americans think all or some of the cost of birth control pills should be covered by insurance. Democratic strategists argue that those who oppose the rule would never have voted for Obama anyway. Most Catholic women use birth control despite the church’s official ban on contraception. (Rubio says he would never tell another Catholic what to do — but, he told Politico, “none of my children were planned.”)
The senator himself said recently that some political advisers have asked him to steer clear of social issues.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘we love your tax policy, your fiscal policy. Just don’t do the social stuff. It turns people off’,” he said at a dinner for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony’s List last week.
Rubio’s camp insists that his role in this fight has “absolutely” nothing to do with politics. “The Senator introduced his bill,” said spokesman Alex Conant, “because the Administration is violating religious organizations’ Constitutional rights and Congress must act.”