Ben Smith reports that Richard Land is apparently quite smitten with Marco Rubio and is tossing out his name as a possible presidential candidate in 2012:
Marco Rubio’s remarkable fundraising haul — $3.6 million this quarter, he just announced — is a reminder of the scale of his stardom inside the Republican Party, all of whose core constituencies seem to like the guy.
He’s already hearing every day (and brushing it off) that he should run for president in 2012, and at the inevitable moment in the cycle (as in every party, every cycle) when Republicans panic about their field of nominees, he’s likely to be uniquely attractive: young, conservative, Hispanic, and from a swing state besides.
The buzz for a Rubio candidacy is broad, and deep. Observers like Matt Lewis have made the case publicly, and my impression is that if a swathe of conservative leaders haven’t talked up his candidacy, it’s only because they haven’t been asked. I was talking to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land earlier this year for another story when he brought Rubio up, unasked.
“The longer nobody catches fire, the more space heir is for Marco,” he said. “It wouldn’t be unheard of for a freshman Senator from Florida to be the nominee – particularly one who was Speaker of the [Florida Assembly].
“He’s got more experience than Obama had,” Land continued. “There are a lot of Hispanics in this country who would find someone with Marco’s ethnic background very appealing. Although I like Sarah [Palin] I think Sarah’s got a lot more impediments to a nomination than Marco Rubio does.”
I was surprised to hear it from Land, a leading figure on the Christian right, with which Rubio hasn’t been particularly associated. Rubio is more generally seen as the darling of the Wall Street-financed Club for Growth and of the fiscally-oriented Tea Party movement. But Land said he’d heard a great deal about Rubio from Baptist ministers in Florida, who said “he walks the walk.”
If Rubio is thinking of plotting a run for the White House before he’s even been elected to Congress, it might behoove him to remember that last time around, Land couldn’t stop talking about how Fred Thompson was a “Southern-fried Reagan” who possessed “a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability,” while gushing that to “see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint.”