On the Eve of Mitt Romney’s announcement of his running mate, I offer no speculation as to who he might select. The vice presidential running mate has not traditionally won or lost presidential elections for the head of the ticket. Neither does the Vice President hold any real particular power in governing or policy making. However, there are a number of individuals who can consolidate or shore up weak areas for the presidential candidate. In a close election, the vice presidential nominee may even make the difference, for better or for worse for Mitt Romney. In keeping that in mind, I have compiled the top five vice presidential picks that could be considered front-runners (no Donald Trumps, Jeb Bushes, or Allen Wests) that Romney should not pick, and then the nominees that would serve Romney well.
Five People Romney Should Not Make Vice President
5. Paul Ryan: At 42 years of age, Ryan is the Chair of the House Budget Committee and is wildly popular among the Republican base. The Representative from Wisconsin’s First District is highly regarded in both the establishment wing and the grass roots conservative wing of the Party and is a budget hawk in a time of crushing deficits. He is the leading reformer in Congress in an election cycle in which the economy, deficits and jobs are the main focus. Ryan is the conservative that Romney would be most comfortable with as a running mate. Ryan can possibly help Romney carry the state of Wisconsin, but this is less likely than if Ryan was a Senator or Governor, because of Representatives’ local appeal. This may make Ryan seem like a dead ringer to sit next to the milk-toast Romney at campaign stops for the next three months, but this is actually the main reason that Ryan should not be the nominee. John Adams’ derision of the office (he called it laborious and inconsequential) is not without merit–Paul Ryan is far too important in the office he currently holds to be relegated to Vice President. Many people can identify Paul Ryan faster than they can Speaker John Boehner. Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal may distract from Romney’s messaging on the economy and jobs, but the biggest reason Ryan should remain where he is, is that he is far too valuable where he sits now. Can Scott Garrett (R-NJ) step up and play the same pivotal role as ‘Young Gun’ Paul Ryan does in the House Budget Committee as Chair?
4. Condaleezza Rice: Former Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice is a brilliant woman and is an excellent adviser that has demonstrated that she is an asset to any administration. As Secretary of State she performed admirably, and as a Black woman she presents significant challenges electorally for the Obama campaign should she be nominated as the vice-presidential running mate for Mitt Romney. However, Rice is “mildly pro-choice.” This would present huge obstacles for the Republican base, which can tolerate pro-choice politics in the Department of State or other non-domestic policy making arms of the government, but placing a pro-choice Republican a heartbeat away from the presidency (and Supreme Court nominations) is a bridge too far for many conservatives, this one included. Compounded with Mitt Romney’s own reputation as a moderate, Rice would shake up the electoral map a great deal, which is not something the Romney camp should want given how good Romney’s chances look at the moment. A Rice candidacy presents too many variables from an electoral standpoint, and from a policy standpoint as well. Rice’s foreign policy credentials and intellectual gravitas are off-set by her lack of elected executive experience (how will she govern? We already saw how well ‘intellectual’ Obama has done thus far) and questions about her campaign experience (will she be Joe Biden or Dick Cheney?). Rice is too risky.
3. Tim Pawlenty: Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has the exact opposite problem. No one knows who he is, and no one cares. Pawlenty, however, can actually hurt the Romney campaign because for the people who do know Pawlenty (the Republican base), his record as a moderate precedes him. In fact, there are very few ways in which Pawlenty can be distinguished from Romney. This could be why Pawlenty dropped out of the GOP primaries before a single shot was fired, and became Mitt Romney’s most loyal supporter. Pawlenty would undoubtedly dampen the enthusiasm of conservatives (40% of the electorate by most estimates). In his favor, Pawlenty may bring in some blue collar Democrats and Independents, and the selection may make Romney appear well-reasoned and mild-mannered, as if there was any doubt about Ward Cleaver’s sensibilities. Pawlenty might also help turn out the vote in Minnesota, but of the three Great Lakes swing states, Minnesota swings the least. What it boils down to is this: In a turnout election, do we really need more Romney?
2. Chris Christie:The sitting Governor of New Jersey is brash. Is there anything else that needs to be said? But I will say more. If we need more evidence, I suppose the Governor’s near fist-fight on the Jersey Shore recently may put any doubt about that to rest. But every campaign needs a bull-dog, right? Not so fast. Christie is, first of all, only marginally conservative, having sang all the right notes on the economy and jobs (which is important), but also having supported job killing cap and trade legislation and being firmly in the ‘man-made global warming’ camp. Of course, much of this may just be posturing because Christie is an Executive of a Blue State. We can’t take that chance, though. His positions are left of center on the issues of immigration and gun control, which surely will not endear him to the conservative base or independents in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa or Ohio. He can put the State of New Jersey in play, but only marginally, and he is a ticking time bomb. If he goes off in his debate or at a campaign event, he could make the Sarah Palin experience seem like James Sherman (exactly). His schtick articulates conservatism well and is great for Youtube, but Chris Christie would not be campaigning to be the enforcer for the mob (that’s Tim Geithner’s job), he would be campaigning for vice president, and he would be a huge (hah) distraction.
1. Sarah Palin: Former Alaska Governor and FOX News contributor (and former vice presidential nominee) Sarah Palin is a smart woman. She is a capable person, was a fine governor, and would have made a fine vice president. However, the left and the mainstream media absolutely loathe her. With that said, they have made their number two goal (behind wiping President Obama’s bottom for him) to slander and terrorize Palin, her friends, her husband and her daughters to such an extent that independents and some conservatives have even begun to show disdain for Palin’s intellect (foolishly). Their hatred, misguided though it may be, would be an absolutely unequivocal distraction during the last three months of the campaign season. This is an election in which President Obama has absolutely nothing to run on. Nothing. For months the president’s team has been slinging anything they can find on Mitt Romney. Lies, distortions and character assaults have become the bread and butter for a president with nothing left to run on. This places Obama in a situation where his only path to victory is by destroying Mitt Romney personally rather than making the case for his own re-election. The key facets of this strategy include dampening voter enthusiasm for Mitt Romney and keeping the Romney camp off-message by talking about anything else–Bain Capital, Romney’s dog, his wife, his trip to London, Sandra Fluke, you name it–anything but his own record, jobs, unemployment or the economy. Sarah Palin would lose Romney the election simply by eating up all of the air space between now and November with vicious, hate-filled attacks on her and her family.
Five People Romney Should Make Vice President
5. David Petraeus: A retired four star General and successful architect of the Iraq surge seems like a pretty good place to find someone who appeals to the middle. Petraeus’ political and policy views are unknown, but the Obama Administration has telegraphed their fear of Petraeus politically, stashing him at the CIA in hopes that he would not challenge the president after a period of strained relations between the two toward the end of Petraeus’ tenure as General. There is no better executive experience than heading an entire army. Petraeus possesses a PhD in International Relations from Princeton so he would be ready to step into the job on day one. This West Point graduate would fill the role of statesman well, possessing similar credentials as those of George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, and George H.W. Bush. Petraeus would likely bring Romney a load of independent voters and could make perhaps the most significant impact electorally of all potential running mates. His nebulous political views and campaign acumen place Petraeus at only number five, though on a personal note, my impression from talking to people who know Petraeus, is that this man is solid all-around. Give him a shot.
4. Bobby Jindal: Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana is a polished executive with the experience and knowledge necessary to make an impact on the campaign trail and in office. Of Indian heritage, a Jindal pick makes the Romney campaign look a little more ethnically diverse (he suffers from the Ward Cleaver Effect, as I have coined it), and would quite simply make Romney a more appealing candidate without being a distraction. Jindal would compliment the Romney campaign well.
3. Brian Sandoval: The new Governor of Nevada presents opportunities for the Romney campaign should Mitt select the Governor. Executive experience, despite its relatively short duration (2010 to present) makes Sandoval a bright pick, but Sandoval, a Hispanic and Governor of a heavily Hispanic swing state would be valuable not just in taking the edge off of Obama’s lead with Hispanic voters but also in re-imaging the GOP for elections to come. Let’s face it–Romney is probably going to win this election unless he nominates many of the V.P. candidates I mentioned above or makes a remarkably stupid gaffe. However, demographic tidal waves are eroding the Republican voter blocs. The Republican Party needs to reach out to Blacks and Hispanics or it faces permanent minority status in the decade to come. Nominating the first Hispanic vice presidential candidate will not lock up the Hispanic vote for generations to come or anything, but it will go a long way in convincing independent Hispanic voters that the Republican Party does not view them as adversaries, and will go a long way in convincing the working class Hispanics (ever seen a Hispanic homeless person?) that the Republican Party shares their values. Obama needs to get over 60% of the Hispanic vote to have any chance of defeating Romney. A Sandoval pick could win Romney the election by blunting Obama’s Hispanic outreach efforts, but long-term Romney could help to build the winning coalition of the future Republican Party.
2. Rob Portman: A Freshman Senator from Ohio on your ticket could go a long way toward winning the Buckeye State for Mitt Romney. And, if Mitt Romney wins Ohio, the election is very nearly over. Portman and his Governor, John Kasich are pretty popular and are doing a pretty good job in the Rust Belt state, but if Rob Portman could add a percentage point or two to Romney’s tally, all the better. Portman is a safe pick. Portman was Director of the Office of Management and Budget when I interned at the White House in 2006. Having held two Cabinet-level positions in the second Bush White House, and as White House Counsel to the first Bush Administration, in addition to serving six terms as an Ohio Congressman. Portman knows how Washington works at all ends, and would again be ready at day one to step in.
1. Marco Rubio: The conservative freshman Senator from Florida presents Mitt Romney’s best chance at victory this November, and conservatives’ best chance at building a newer, younger and more diverse intellectual movement and candidate. Marco Rubio appears to me to be a once in a lifetime candidate. It is one thing to be smart. They’re all smart. Rubio can articulate what makes America what it is and what makes conservatism what America needs. He is light on experience, but the descendant of Cuban-Americans presents all the advantages of Brian Sandoval (minus Executive experience) and is a conservative force that would drive voters en masse for Mitt Romney. Rubio can balance Romney’s centrist persona with a conservative one without becoming a distraction personally or politically. Oh, and Marco Rubio took Florida by storm in 2010. Did I forget that? While I think Romney will win Florida anyway, it will be nice to be able to move the massive amount of campaign funds from the Florida markets to the Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin ones. Rubio has a great personal story, great politics, great electoral appeal, and he could begin the needed remaking of the Republican Party. After all, it is highly likely Marco Rubio will one day be president, and taking the vice presidential nod now is one of the best ways to get there. If Rubio gets the nod, it’s in the bag.