Add Rubio to Rice in the vice presidential rumor mill

Is Rubio or Rice a recipe for success for Mitt Romney? The VP pick might come down to the state of Florida, where both long-shot candidates could greatly help the presumptive GOP nominee.

New polling data from Florida shows that Senator Marco Rubio could help Romney take the key swing state–as could Condoleezza Rice.

For months, much of the speculation over Romney’s possible vice presidential pick centered on the state of Ohio, which is seen as critical to Romney’s quest to unseat President Barack Obama.

But recent numbers from Ohio show the Buckeye State drifting more solidly into the Obama win column. The most recent Quinnipiac poll puts Obama up by 6 percentage points in Ohio.

Florida, another huge swing state, is much closer, and the addition of Rubio could be tempting to a campaign seeking to lock up one of the biggest prizes in the 2012 election.

Polling data from the Public Policy Polling group shows that Romney could win the Sunshine State by a 49-47 percent vote with Rubio on the ticket, while losing to President Obama by one percentage point without Rubio.

The addition of Condoleezza Rice on the ticket also puts Romney up by a percentage point on Obama, says the PPP.

Three other potential running mates—Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, and Bobby Jindal—all hurt Romney in Florida.

A separate survey nationally shows that Rice and Rubio are the preferred candidates among small business owners.

The study, from George Washington University, gave Rice (32 percent) and Rubio (21 percent) the highest marks among entrepreneurs. Many people polled have never heard of or had no opinion about Portman, Jindal, and Pawlenty.

Rubio was speaking on Thursday in Florida at a rally to support Romney.

Since June, most attention in the media has focused on six potential Romney running mates and Rice, who has repeatedly said she has no interest in running for office.

Portman, Pawlenty, Jindal, Paul Ryan, John Thune, and Kelly Ayotte are on the media’s short list of VP candidates.

Rubio was written off the list in June after he made statements on immigration that seemed to conflict with Romney’s stated policy goals.

However, Rubio is much closer to Romney on social issues than Rice, and the two long-shot candidates boast a much-higher public recognition factor than the other six candidates.

A look at the current electoral vote map shows why Romney could opt to focus more on Florida than Ohio.

According to Real Clear Politics, the current electoral count (based on a consensus of polls) is Obama (247) and Romney (191), with 271 electoral votes needed to win.

That leaves 100 electoral votes in 10 “toss-up” states, and if Obama were to win Florida, the election would be over.

Ohio has 18 electoral votes, compared with 29 in Florida, so Romney could win the election by taking five other swing states (Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada) along with Florida. So the GOP contender could lose Ohio and still win the election.

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