Marco Rubio for Senate?

It is very rare for me to boost candidate, not least because winning the Reihan primary is, if anything, a poisoned chalice. But ever since serious journalists have attributed Great Mentioning powers to me, I’ve been feeling obligated to weigh in. With that, I endorse MacGyver for president. Patrick Ruffini has written the definitive case against 2012 speculation, but surely we can speculate about 2010?

Now that Mel Martinez is stepping down, Republicans need to find someone smart and competent to run against Alex Sink, Florida’s appealing Democratic CFO. Though I’m hardly an expert on Florida, my sense is that Marco Rubio is the right candidate. I feel like I’d be remiss in my hackery if I didn’t gently suggest that Rubio might be the Latino conservative suburban Republican Obama, which is to say that he is not like Obama at all, apart from being young and charismatic and sharp. Which is more than enough.

Bill McCollum has won a lot of goodwill with Florida Republicans over his very long political career. As AG, he’s had a lot of success by placing the first against cybercrime at the top of his agenda. But McCollum is also closely associated with a lot of very contentious social issues, including the ban on gay adoption, and he comes from the Inhofe School of climate change denial. Florida is even less likely to elect McCollum to the Senate now than it was in 2004, when he lost to Martinez.

So why Rubio?

There are, after all, a number of other Florida Republicans who would be eager to run for the seat. Apart from being a young Cuban American, which hardly hurts in Florida, Rubio is a shrewd conservative pragmatist, one who takes his cues from Jeb Bush. He’s often found himself at odds with Governor Crist, most notably over a statewide property tax cut. Indeed, Rubio’s staunch opposition to property taxes could give him leeway to pursue a more moderate approach to healthcare and education, areas that have been a particular focus for him. After making a mark as a conservative firebrand, Rubio quietly and effectively worked with Democrats in the state legislature on a wide range of issues, including emergency aid to counties rocked by the economic downturn.

Rubio is closely associated with his 100 Ideas initiative, during which he barnstormed across the state to generate actionable proposals — more than half of which became legislation — for reforming state government. A lot of the ideas come right out of the Indiana playbook of delivering cheap and effective government by embracing competition. Others pay close attention to the quality-of-life issues that matter most to the suburban middle class. I don’t agree with all of the ideas Rubio generated, but I was struck by how he was able to move beyond ideological shibboleths.

Chances are that Rubio won’t run. He is young and he has a large, growing family. It makes sense for him to stick to the private sector for now, not least because he’ll face a tough political environment. But he is exactly the kind of candidate Republicans need to run in 2010 and 2012. Sadly, Rubio has only written one blog post as far as I can — but it’s very encouraging.

I come from what people in the political mainstream would call ”right of center”. I am not anti-government. I believe that government is an important institution in a successful society—I just do not believe that it is the most important institution. Government’s job is to create regulations that protect public safety and the environment. To provide help to parents, families and the civil society in raising children. To provide the rule of law needed to have a robust and competitive economic climate. To provide a safety net to catch people who get lost in economic competition so they can stand up and try again. And to help those who are elderly, disabled or sick and cannot provide for themselves.

That sounds about right to me. As for social issues,

I could care less what people do in the privacy of their home, a long as they are not hurting anyone else. After all, your rights end where mine begin. By the same token however, I do not think you can separate the social and moral well being of your people from their economic and physical well being.

Also very reasonable. Then there is something that family values conservatives and teachers can both embrace.

I believe that children who are raised by a married mother and father have a great head start. I believe that across this country every day single parents (especially single mothers) are doing making extraordinary sacrifices to provide their children with that same advantage. And I believe that no matter how much you pay teachers, or how much in tax dollars you invest in schools, kids with parents who do not push them to learn, who stay involved and engaged in their life and in their education, are going to struggle.

Finally, there is his stance on the conservatism of doubt.

I am passionate about my beliefs and the policies I think will help advance those beliefs. But I also recognize that I have been wrong in the past, and I try to always be willing to be proven wrong.

Rare and refreshing. Yes, Rubio is young — but he’s already served as Speaker of the State House. He’s hardly green, and more experienced in public office than Bobby Jindal was in 2003. Also, he gave some serious thought to running for mayor of Miami-Dade, which suggests a serious interest in the kind of urban and suburban issues that have been a vulnerability for Republicans in recent election cycles. I have to say, he sounds almost perfect. Perhaps too perfect. Let me know if there are any serious downsides.