Bill Richardson: I’m “afraid” of Marco Rubio
Richardson said that Rubio could win over some Latinos, but that President Obama deserves their support.
By EMILY DERUY
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says that he is afraid of Marco Rubio’s ability to cut into President Obama’s Latino support.
Richardson, a Mexican-American who ran against Obama in 2008 for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that the freshman Florida senator is one of the Republican Party’s fastest-rising stars who could make the GOP more appealing to Latino voters both in this election and in future ones.
“I like him. And yes, I’m afraid of him because I think he is an attractive politician, well prepared. And he is Cuban-American and to me that is positive,” Richardson said in an interview on Univision’s Al Punto. “Because I want all Hispanics in the Republican Party, in the Democratic Party, whether Latin Americans, Central Americans, Cubans, Mexicans, I want us to unite.”
Richardson went on to say that if Mitt Romney chooses him as his running mate, Rubio could steal votes away from Obama in battleground states with large Latino voter populations, though Richardson said it wouldn’t be enough to outright defeat Obama.
“I think he is someone, for example, in states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and certainly Florida, could give Romney votes that he doesn’t have now. I don’t think putting him on the ticket will be enough to defeat President Obama. But he is an attractive politician.”
Rubio has long attracted buzz as a potential running mate for Romney, both for his appeal to conservative voters and his potential to connect with Latinos, who strongly prefer Obama over his Republican opponent.
But Rubio’s stock appears to have dropped in the so-called “veepstakes,” with more conventional candidates such as Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty gaining more steam.
Many political insiders have long seen Rubio as figure who could repair the GOP’s broken image within the Latino community, but others have pointed out that his Cuban-American background won’t automatically endear him to the majority of Latino voters, who are Mexican-American, and his immigration policies could hamper him.
Richardson clearly believes the first factor won’t be an impediment, but he expressed concern about Rubio’s stance on immigration (he opposes a special pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants).
“I do have many concerns over his immigration initiative — it is like he doesn’t understand. But I see him as a young person who wants to learn and has a positive future ahead,” he said.
Richardson urged Obama to solve the immigration and place a greater focus on Latin America during a second term, particularly to address human-rights issues in Cuba and forming new connections with countries like Argentina, Chile, and even Venezuela, which is ruled by Hugo Chávez. Forging new bonds in Venezuela could help alleviate the “severe situation” in Chávez’s Venezuela, saying the U.S. should not be afraid to engage.
“I don’t think that Venezuela is a security concern for the United States,” said Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador who has negotiated with oppressive regimes such as North Korea.
Despite the glacial pace of progress on these issues, Richardson said that he deserves reelection, and the Latino vote, for his efforts to break the stalemate during his first term.
“He deserves it because he has tried to enact a comprehensive immigration reform law. The DREAM Act put a stop to the deportations that were taking place and causing so much concern in our community, and ultimately, he has been a president who listens to us,” said Richardson. “Gov. Romney has very negative policies, very discriminatory policies. Those are the reasons.”
Alejandra Lascurain contributed reporting.
(Photo: Flickr, MikeSchinkel)