Mitt Romney Veepstakes: Who’s it Going to Be?
With Rick Santorum’s withdrawal last week, the steady transition to the general election season continues. With victory assured, Mitt Romney has begun the search for the bottom half of his ticket. Therefore, in the coming months, Romney, his campaign, and the Republican National Committee will discuss what to do with Number Two.
Presidential nominees contemplate many variables in a running mate, but the strategy usually boils down to two general options.
1. Do they pick a running mate that accentuates their strengths? Or . . .
2. Do they pick a candidate that offsets their weaknesses?
The specifics of these strengths and weakness exist in many realms, including geography (north, south, Midwest), ideology (conservative, liberal, moderate, evangelical), and certain kinds of experience (executive, legislative, foreign policy, business). Additionally, parties now weigh the effects of gender and ethnic background on voting trends, so there are clearly many attributes to consider. Still, it does mostly boil down to solidifying strengths or offsetting weaknesses.
Keeping that in mind, Romney could choose from many combinations. He could pick a white or minority male or female conservative or moderate governor or senator from a swing or southern state. See? Lots of possibilities. With all that in mind, here’s my top 10 list on most likely VP nominees, in descending order of probability:
Honorable mention: Mitch Daniels (looking at 2016 for his own run), Bobby Jindal (2016 with an Obama win, 2020 with a Romney one), Jeb Bush (ditto), Sarah Palin (likes being a celebrity more than a candidate), John Thune (I fell asleep just writing the name), Newt Gingrich (is interested in VP, which is more than Romney can say about Gingrich), Ron Paul (whoops, this was supposed to be honorable mention . . . my bad).
10. Rick Perry: Texas Governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry could use four to eight years as VP to hone his rough public appearance skills before another run at the presidency, and Romney could use someone to really electrify the evangelical base of the party, to say nothing of southern donors. Of the Republican candidates, Perry’s organizational structure was second only to Romney’s, meaning these two could raise money and lead troops across large swaths of the country. With Perry as his #2, Romney wouldn’t have to step foot in a southern state. Instead, he could rotate between Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for three months while Perry feeds red meat to the red masses.
Why, then, is Perry ranked 10 and not higher? Well, he’s Rick Perry. You don’t want a VP pick to have the potential to ruin a ticket, and Perry Hindenburged as a presidential candidate. No need to spread the flames to Romney.
9. Nikki Haley: A conservative, female governor from South Carolina? Three important compliments and a supplement. A near jackpot. From an aesthetics perspective, it’s similar to the strengths of McCain’s Palin pick, with surely more substance. Still, she’s young—only 40—and does seem to have that same inexperience hindrance that Palin had. Moreover, she does not seem interested in the VP spot (but that’s what they all say before they’re offered it!).
8. Paul Ryan: This pick seems to have the most momentum. He’s campaigned with Romney, he proposed the Republican version of the budget (which Romney endorsed), he looks like he could be Romney’s younger brother, and he was recently called the “Conservative of the Year,” which could calm suspicious Santorum and Gingrich supporters. So why isn’t Ryan higher on the list? He’s a lowly House member (you never see them on national tickets), and his weakness with women and those who stand to benefit from social programs could irrevocably destroy Romney’s numbers with those populous voting blocs, as he has the same exact weakness with them. The Republicans do not want to be in the position where they have to win 70 percent of white males, and a Paul Ryan pick would do just that.
7. Chris Christie: The New Jersey Governor endorsed Romney early in the process (October). That makes him a close and appreciated friend of the Romney Campaign. Christie, a darling of numerous national conservative voices, brings legitimate conservative credentials. Furthermore, he has the ability to cross-appeal. He won the 2008 gubernatorial election in a year where Obama easily carried New Jersey in the presidential election. In fact, Christie became the first Republican to win a statewide New Jersey election in 12 years. Considering Romney’s potential strength with moderates in a general election, pairing him with a red governor of a blue state could win many independent voters. Just the mere possibility of putting New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes into play—Democrats redirecting money there would be a moral victory for the GOP—must be an appetizing prospect for the Republicans. And, don’t look now, but Christie just visited Israel. What’s a governor going toIsrael for? To set himself up as vice president, of course!
However, Christie, as a white, male, northeast, blue-state governor, offers little diversity to Romney. Moreover, Christie has a tendency to say some bombastic things, and while that might play well in Jersey, it won’t sit well with many independents across the country, thereby negating some of the aforementioned Christie strengths.
6. Rick Santorum: He would have made the top 5 if he withdrew a month earlier. This pairing makes a lot of sense, though. Just off the top of my head:
A) Except for Perry, Rick Santorum is the only candidate on this list to have run a national campaign.
B) It’s a Governor/Senator combo, with one man boasting business and executive credentials while the other has legislative and foreign policy experience.
C) Santorum’s strength with conservatives and evangelicals could help shore up concerns of Romney’s Mormonism and moderate past.
In a perfect world for GOP strategists, anti-Obama moderates could live with Santorum if he doesn’t have any actual power, while skeptical conservatives can live with Romney if they consider him a stepping stone between President Obama and Santorum. Moreover, Romney and Santorum will finish first and second in delegates, and August’s Republican National Convention could see them unify the party after an acrimonious primary.
So, why isn’t Santorum in the top 5? Romney and Republicans need to reimagine the GOP after it mutilated their relationship with everyone who isn’t a white male. Step 1 is to cast away Santorum as a visible Republican and let Romney pick someone who hasn’t spent the last four months trying to out-conservative the field.
Which brings us to the Top 5. Any guesses? I’ll wrap up the list tomorrow. Check back to see if you’re right!