A Hispanic candidate is potentially a major plus, perhaps the deciding factor, to any 2016 GOP lineup as the vice-presidential candidate, and Electoral College ramifications seemingly dictate that Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is a superior choice to both New Mexico's Governor Susana Martinez and Florida's Senator Marco Rubio in that role.
In Senator Rubio's case there might seem to be a contradiction. It is an absolute that if the exit polls show that Florida will be won by the Democratic party presidential candidate on election Republicans could turn off their hopes on the presidential level. Thus logic would seem to dictate that Senator Rubio would be the GOP's best hope to keep the ticket alive.
That would appear to be the case in point of fact Mitt Romney lost Florida by the narrowest of margins, the closest in the country, just 0.88 percent down from 2.82 in 2008. It would take just a small swing to flip it to the GOP in 2016 and a Hispanic VP candidate, particularly one of Cuban descent, could well provide the required margin. Given the close battle in Florida and President Obama's ability to increase the support in vital Ohio by 4 percent from Blacks that he received in 2008 it was perhaps surprising that this support among Black voters in Florida dropped a point from 96 percent. What appears to have won the state for President Obama was the again perhaps even more surprising shift of Hispanic voters from 57 percent in 2008 to 60 percent for Obama in 2012. As can be clearly seen winning back those voters to the GOP is vital, and clearly a Hispanic of Cuban descent would surely have an advantage in encompassing that challenge.
The problem for the GOP is that winning Florida is only the start of a path to the required 270 Electoral College votes, and the path is long, tortuous and extremely narrow. It is in the Rockies and Southwest that having a Hispanic candidate on the ticket becomes the vital factor if the key Eastern states and Iowa fall to the GOP.
A study of the Electoral College map shows that to get at or above the required 270 votes some combination of any two of Colorado/New Mexico/Nevada must be won. Both Sandoval and Martinez won their 2014 reelection to their respective governorships handily, Martinez by a substantial margin and Sandoval by a massive margin with 70 percent of the vote so they are both obviously very popular in their home states. The fact of being successful governors at a time when the public is perhaps looking for just that type of experience instead of senators who have had no executive management record can be a plus above and beyond their Hispanic heritage as well.
However, it is the challenge in their home states to overcome the Democrat's presidential voting history that appears to give the nod to Governor Sandoval over Governor Martinez and to relegate Senator Rubio to third in consideration. New Mexico is particularly challenging. In 2008 the state went for Obama over McCain by a massive 15.12 points and even with the swing back to the GOP nationwide in 2012 the margin over Romney was still in double digits at 10.15
Nevada was not so extreme, giving Obama a 12.15 margin in 2008 and a 2012 margin of 6.68 which brings the state into the tossup category. The logic of the situation then is quite simple: yes, Rubio might bring in more Hispanic votes in his own state of Florida, but the number required of Sandoval is relatively small. On the other hand, Sandoval, with his immense popularity in Nevada, would surely be a better bet to win Nevada and bring in Colorado than Rubio or Martinez.
All things being equal, having a Hispanic on the GOP ticket appears to be the GOP's best hope, and Governor Sandoval appears to be the best Hispanic choice. At the very least, with Whites expected to become a minority in the not to distant future with the Hispanic population doubling that of Blacks, it is good politics.