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Bye-bye, Marco Rubio from Romney veepstakes?

IMG-20120717-00107(1)Sean Hannity sounds beside himself. Reuters seems pretty sure. Same with NBC Nightly News.

All appear to believe that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn't at the top of the shortlist to be Mitt Romney's vice presidential. That is, Rubio isn't on the shorter list.

"Why do I keep hearing they're not going to pick Rubio?" Hannity asked with some sense of frustration last night on his Fox show. "I want Rubio... with everybody else."

Well, not quite.

Rubio hasn't really endeared himself to Mitt World. Sure, he helped scuttle Newt Gingrich's campaign, which Gingrich was busily scuttling anyway this January. And Rubio  gave a pretty tepid and late endorsement of Romney on Hannity's show after the Florida primary.

Compare that with the full-throated endorsement and help of former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (so what if he never won a majority of the vote in his two statewide runs and briefly criticized RomneyCare last year).

Also, Mitt World cares about Beltway groupthink. And the Beltway has judged (not without some reason) Rubio a little too risky. Reuters' Washington bureau reports that Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal top the veepstakes shorter list. NBC nightly news added South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to the mix.

No Rubio.

It follows ABC-Washington Post-New York Times reports last month that said Rubio didn't even make the original shortlist. Romney himself had to deny it after a day of getting knocked off message, but chances are some higher ups in the Romney campaign were floating trial balloons that the right shot down.

There's also a chance Romney, dissed repeatedly by the Republican right, might be inclined to pick Rubio in inverse proportion to the howls of the right.

"I love Rubio," conservative columnist Cal Thomas said last night on Hannity's show. "I think he's got everything."

That might just be the problem.

Beyond Rubio's potential baggage, there's a matter of chemistry. There doesn't seem to be a good connection between him and Romney. In McLuhan-esque terms, Rubio is hot and Romney is cool. Romney made his fortune in the private sector; Rubio got relatively rich while in office as a career politician (but not too wealthy, as he still has college debts, which'll likely be retired as a result of his top-selling political autobiography).

Romney, of course, might not care about any knocks on Rubio if the senator shows he can deliver Florida. But our latest poll suggests Romney could win the Sunshine State without Rubio. Romney is essentially tied with President Obama 45%-46%. With Rubio on the ticket, the numbers reverse with Romney garnering 46% and Obama 45%.

Either way, the theoretical lead of each candidate is well within the poll's 3.5% error margin.

Rubio seems to help -- especially with Hispanics, whose support flips 8 points in the Republicans' favor with Rubio on the ticket. Obama goes from winning Hispanics over Romney 49-42 to essentially losing them by a 43-44. However, because of the relatively small sample size, don't take these numbers to the bank.

Still, Rubio appears to do no harm in Florida, and it's really not clear how the other guys would be any better in the must-win state. And Democrats seem scared of Rubio, whom they appear to have bashed more than the other shortlisters.

"We need Florida. We can't win without Florida," conservative Noelle Nikpour chimed in agreement with  Thomas and Hannity last night. "We've gotta have Florida. And that's Rubio."

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But if Rubio doesn't get picked and Romney subsequently loses Florida by a close margin, the I-told-you-sos will rain down on Mitt World.