Sen. Marco Rubio says it’s time for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to end their bids for the Republican presidential nomination and support Mitt Romney.

He told Sean Hannity he is endorsing Romney and that he will be the nominee of the party. He says it would be a “disaster” if there is a floor fight at the convention in Tampa to deny Romney the party’s nomination.

I disagree.

Perhaps it’s the difference in age between me and Rubio. I remember 1976 like yesterday. He was 5 years old.

In 1976, the Republicans were headed for disaster, with Gerald Ford as their nominee. He was already president, not because he had been elected, but because he had been appointed by the disgraced outgoing president, Richard Nixon.

By Rubio’s logic, Republicans would have avoided internal conflict and not challenged Ford for the nomination – and certainly not start a floor fight at the convention.

But the man who ultimately became the iconic Republican president of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan, did just that. He fought hard to win the nomination against a sitting Republican president and continued his doomed campaign right through the convention.

He lost the battle, but he won the war to transform the Republican Party from one representing the country-club crowd to one representing – at least for eight years – a broad coalition of Americans tired of seeing their nation in decline.

That’s why I strongly disagree with Rubio about what Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich should do. Mitt Romney has won nothing except some primary votes. The presidency is not going to be handed to him if he almost wins – and neither should the nomination to serve at the top of the Republican ticket.

While Rubio denies any interest in serving as the vice presidential nominee of the party, his support of Romney has raised even more speculation about that possibility.

I seem to be the only pundit in America who believes Rubio, a gifted young senator whom I like immensely, will actually doom the ticket to defeat.

Even talking about this on national TV is considered scandalous.

But, I’ll say it again: Rubio is simply not constitutionally eligible for the job. This is a concern of enough Republicans to ensure Obama, who is also unconstitutional, wins re-election.

Do you doubt what I say?

According to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, Obama leads Romney 46-44.

What happens if Rubio is Romney’s running mate? The same poll shows support for the ticket actually diminishes – just as I predicted it would on my last appearance on Hannity’s show.

Obama and Joe Biden beat Romney-Rubio 49-44 percent.

What accounts for this?

I believe it is the eligibility factor. Strange as it may seem to most in the media and the Republican political establishment, a significant percentage of Americans, and especially Republicans, actually revere the Constitution.

For instance, could I vote for a Romney-Rubio ticket?

No, I couldn’t – certainly not after four years of raising the eligibility question surrounding Obama.

I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world.

I like Rubio. I like him much more than I like Romney. But I could never vote for him for either of two positions – president or vice president.

I hardly think I am the only American who feels this way.

I suggested on Hannity’s show that upwards of 10 percent of Republicans would stay home rather than vote for a Republican-in-name-only at the top of the ticket and an ineligible vice presidential candidate. At least one other poll suggests I may have understated the case.

A WND/Wenzel poll conducted last month showed only 45 percent said they believe that, under the U.S. Constitution, a child born to parents who are not U.S. citizens is a natural born citizen of the United States. Such is the situation with Rubio. Another 43 percent said they believe someone in his situation is clearly not qualified for this reason, while 12 percent said they were unsure on the question.

Asked specifically whether they would vote for any candidate for president who was not constitutionally eligible to serve, just 15 percent said they would go ahead and vote for such candidate, presumably because other factors would weigh more heavily in their minds. Another 64 percent said they could not vote for such a candidate, while 21 percent said they were unsure on the question.

“What this shows is that, should Rubio be elevated to the Republican ticket, he could actually be a drag rather than the asset most pundits perceived him to be,” said pollster Fritz Wenzel. “In other words, for all of his political appeal and skills, choosing Rubio to join the ticket could be political suicide.”

Sadly, I agree.

Rubio is not only wrong about contesting Romney’s nomination. He’s also the wrong guy to pick as a vice presidential nominee in a critically important election.

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