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Mitt Romney Veepstakes: Who’s it Going to Be?

Date posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Part II of the running mate countdown.

Photograph via Mars Dorian

Photograph via Mars Dorian

Editor’s note: This is the conclusion of the Mitt Romney Veepstakes. Click here for yesterday’s Part I.

With bated breath, you’ve waited 24 hours to see who the Republicans will nominate for vice-president. I won’t keep you any longer. Here are the five most likely VP candidates for the GOP:

5. Susana Martinez: Remember yesterday when I said how Nikki Haley, as a conservative, female governor, was “almost” a perfect combination? Well, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez takes care of the almost part. Martinez is a rising star in Republican politics. Picking Martinez as his running mate would not only boost Romney’s sagging numbers with women, but it’d also help with the Hispanic vote, which could help combat the African-American vote, a sure-fire President Obama constituency. Democrats comfortably winning women and the two largest minority populations would be difficult for Romney to overcome. Hitching Martinez with Romney helps the GOP shed its “white males only” image from the primary. Still, like Haley (see yesterday), picking a female governor with little experience is too Palin-y, and thus rather unlikely, so it’s tough to put her above the next four potential nominees. (If you’re curious: no, there are no female Republicans of any significant experience that are conservative enough for the new GOP. Maybe Condoleezza Rice. Maybe. But they aren’t nominating her. And she’s not interested.)

4. Tim Pawlenty: Sure, he’s boring. He’s vanilla. He’s bland.

But he’s the least political choice. He is the straightforward, uncontroversial, former two-term governor of the state of Minnesota. His father drove trucks. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. He’s a family man. The indescribably talented Political Bloggers almost unanimously anointed him the Republican candidate that dropped out of the 2012 primary too early. He balanced his state’s budget without raising income tax. He’s affable and humble. He’s a nice guy. I’d go on, but you’d fall asleep.

The point is, Pawlenty is an unsexy pick, which might be exactly what Mitt Romney needs. More than any other person on this list, Pawlenty does not scream “pandering!” He does not make it seem like Romney is trying some gimmick to win votes cheaply without promoting policy. Romney needs to make this election about the economy—understanding it and managing it. What better way to do that than to put two governors on a ticket, one of whom really takes nothing off the table?

However, he has proven rather unsuccessful as a Romney surrogate. Most notable was his utter lack of effectiveness to deliver Minnesota, where Romney finished behind not only Rick Santorum, but ten points behind Ron Paul as well. He might have been a red governor of a blue state, but he had lukewarm support, winning re-election by only a point and more recently having less than 50 percent approval. If he can’t win over his own state, it’s tough to see how he can help Romney across the country.

3. Marco Rubio: I know what you’re thinking. “Only #3? Not even in the Top 2?” True enough, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the only lock to be on everyone’s shortlist. He brings three enormously important attributes to a Romney/Rubio ticket:

A) See Susanna Martinez above. The President will carry a heavy majority of African-Americans. If the Republicans want to compete with President Obama in the minority vote, they have to do it with Latinos.

B) Senator Rubio could bring the ever-important swing state of Florida back to the Republican column. After voting for President Bush one-and-a-half times, it was wrestled away by Barack Obama in 2008. The state, it goes without saying, is an important piece of the electoral puzzle. In fact, only once in the last 50 years, and twice in the last 80, has Florida voted for the losing candidate (Bush 41 in 1992 and Nixon in 1960).

C) With conservative apprehensions toward Mitt Romney, securing the “Crown Prince” of the Tea Party could go a long way toward shoring up conservative support. In fact, at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the gathering voted Rubio as its preferred vice-presidential candidate.

Sounds like he should be #1 on this list, right? And, truth be told, he’s #1 on many people’s list. In fact, he used to be #1 on my list.

However, I’m no longer fully sold on Romney/Rubio. A big reason why he’s been demoted is because my Wing Nuts partner, Stephen Kurczy, has a good case against him. And you’re in luck—Steve is willing to give us a Rubio rundown for his weekly Friday column. Therefore, to find out why Rubio is not a slam-dunk choice to be the VP nominee, make sure to check back this Friday and see what Steve has to say.

And that brings us to the two men ahead of the young, bright star of the Republican Party.

2. Bob McDonnell: The Governor of Virginia brings some nice qualifications. Perhaps, at the quickest of glances, a selection of McDonnell combines politics and practicality better than any candidate on this list. Senator Obama won Virginia in 2008; nominating McDonnell would place the state back into the red column. He’s had experience in the U.S. Army—rising to lieutenant colonel—which helps with Romney’s lack of military experience. He ran as a jobs-first candidate for Governor (“Bob’s for Jobs”) and scored a resounding 17-point win over his Democratic opponent (after the last two Virginia governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, were Democrats). He’s a conservative through and through—pro-life, pro-drilling, advocate of a ban on same-sex marriage, earned an A from the NRA, and wrote a thesis on the “Republican Party’s Vision for the Family.” In sum, he looks like Rick Santorum 2.0.

So, why not Bob McDonnell as #1 on this list? Well, for starters, he’s Rick Santorum 2.0. He’s a little too Republican. Most recent and perhaps most important is his role in the “War on Women” narrative, where, The Richmonder says, McConnell is on the front lines. As I said for Santorum (1.0) yesterday, regardless of the legitimacy of the “GOP vs. Women” label, the Republican Party needs to shed it. It can’t do that with Bob McConnell.

Which brings us to #1 . . .

1. Rob Portman: The aesthetics (gender, ethnicity) aren’t there, but everything else is. The Ohio Senator brings legislative and foreign policy experience (he serves on the Senate Armed Service and Homeland Security committees). That makes him as qualified as anyone on this list to be Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, he does this from a swing state where he served six House terms (all wins with over 70 percent of the vote) and won election to the Senate with an 18-point win over his Democratic challenger. He headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Bush, showing some executive and budget experience of his own.

In sum, the man is qualified in numerous ways, including a record of working with Democrats while upholding fiscally conservative ideas. He’s campaigned with Romney, including in the days leading up to the important Ohio Primary, a Romney victory that might have effectively eliminated Santorum. All this is from a super crucial swing state, which has voted for the winning candidate in every election after 1960 and in all but two elections since the turn of the twentieth century.

What the Republican Party has in this senator is a candidate that takes nothing off the table while serving a feast on top of it.  For this reason, Rob Portman will be the Republican nominee of the Republican Party.

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Ian Cheney, Connecticut resident, wrote the Presidential Politics for America blog, which took a close look at the historic primaries of 2008 and 2012. Ian earned his B.A. in History and an M.A. in American Studies. He teaches honors history in southeast Connecticut.

View all posts by Ian Cheney →


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