Do Republicans believe Marco Rubio? While much of the political world has been obsessing over decisions by Chris Christie and Sarah Palin not to run for president, the freshman senator from Florida has been making a series of increasingly Shermanesque vows to turn down any offer to join a Republican ticket as a vice presidential candidate.
If Rubio sticks to his guns, it would be a crushing disappointment for many Republicans. At a recent GOP straw poll in Michigan, conducted just after the Republican debate in Orlando, Rubio was the solid winner in the vice presidential category, beating current presidential candidates (and eventual VP possibilities) Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.
Some commentators left and right virtually assume Rubio will be the man. Conservative columnist Dan Henninger of The Wall Street Journal calls Rubio "Mitt Romney's probable running mate." Liberal journalist Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker calls the Republican presidential race "the contest to be Marco Rubio's running mate."
The only problem? Rubio is not playing along. In a recent interview at the Washington Ideas Forum, Rubio was asked whether he "craves" a run for vice president. "I don't crave it," he responded. "I wanted to be a United States senator. I didn't run for the Senate as an opportunity to have a launching pad for some other job."
Nothing definite there; by Washington standards, that could mean Rubio was applying for the job. But then interviewer Major Garrett asked whether Rubio would turn down a spot on the Republican ticket if it were offered to him.
"Yeah, I believe so," Rubio answered. "I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee. I'm focused on my job right now, and the answer is going to probably be no."
"Probably"? The moment the word came out of his mouth, Rubio seemed to realize he had just created a lot of wiggle room. So he quickly added, "The answer is going to be no. Let's not say, 'He left the door open.'"
And that was that. By the end of the interview, Rubio was on record saying he will turn down any offer to join the Republican presidential ticket.
In the past, Rubio has often said simply, "I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee" or "I'm not going to be on a ticket in 2012." Some have taken that to mean Rubio had no intention to join the ticket but that things could always change.
Then, in May, Rubio appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he said "I won't consider" a vice presidential spot.
"So under no circumstances would you serve on a ticket in 2012?" moderator David Gregory asked.
"No, I'm not going to be on a ticket in 2012," Rubio said.
"Under no circumstances?" Gregory asked again.