The Top 10 Vice Presidential Nominees
“Sounds like V.P. week. . . . Hitting the big markets in the big states. It just makes sense.”
That’s what one Republican source “familiar with the schedule” said to CNN’s Peter Hamby about an upcoming Romney Campaign tour that begins this Thursday. And with Beth Myers, Romney’s longtime adviser who’s been hired to head up the VP search, joining Romney in Colorado late last week, it does point to a Romney VP announcement by the end of the tour. It’s time for one last look at the contenders, complete with their odds to become Romney’s #2.
Longtime readers will remember my first crack at the Veepstakes “Power Rankings” back in April. (Part 1 here and Part 2 here.) If any of the names below are too unfamiliar, I recommend going back to read those columns. The goal below is not to rehash all of these candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, but rather to evaluate how their VP chances have evolved.
On to the VP Power Rankings!
Those who dropped out: Rick Perry (#10), Nikki Haley (#9) (Explanation below)
Those who deserve an honorable mention: Newt Gingrich, John Thune, Kelly Ayotte. These contenders make the cut because of the tantalizing tweets from Beth Myers herself. Essentially, she tweeted a Romney “long list” of 13 VP contenders. Perry and Haley were not on it. Gingrich, Thune, and Ayotte were, among ten others (found below).
And, finally, the Top Ten (April ranking in parentheses)
10. Rick Santorum (6): Good lord, did I really have Santorum at #6 last time? I suppose, in April, he still had that national eye. Santorum is too much of a lightning rod, which is something Romney wants to avoid. This is not the election to take a risk. Frankly, now that I think about it, I should replace Santorum with John Thune and make Thune 50:1, but I’m pretty lazy.
9. Chris Christie (7): Similar to Santorum, Romney would not want to risk halting his momentum by picking a guy who would be one off-the-cuff remark from losing middle America. If Romney were struggling, Christie’s upside would have kept him in the top 7.
8. Paul Ryan (8): He hasn’t done anything to move up or down. He has an outside shot based simply on his popularity with fiscal conservatives, but you just don’t see House members on presidential tickets.
Odds: 30: 1
You can make the case
7. Susana Martinez (5): A dip for Martinez in the rankings, but as Vanity Fair writes, the “Palin hangover” makes inexperienced, relatively young politicians like her, Ayotte, and Haley unlikely nominations. Still, a candidate that can make inroads with women and Hispanics while being governor of a swing state must remain a possibility.
6. Bobby Jindal (unranked): I left the Louisiana Governor off the list last time around because I didn’t think he, like Mitch Daniels, was interested in the job. With a Romney loss, Jindal would be a favorite for the 2016 nomination. Yet, it seems that Jindal is interested. He appeared with Romney at several July events, and Jindal, a 41-year-old Rhodes Scholar graduate of Brown and Oxford (after turning down entry into Yale and Harvard), is generally considered one of the brightest young Republican minds in the country. His Indian background brings some diversity to the ticket, but I doubt the Hindu vote will push Romney over the top.
Odds: 20: 1
5. Bob McDonnell (2): One of the bigger drops of the list, McDonnell plummets from the #2 spot. It’s not anything he did wrong as much as what the top four have going for them. As I said in April, I can’t shake McDonnell’s unpopularity with women in an election where Republicans might lose solely on their inability to speak their language. The following four contenders are not liabilities with the mysterious double-X chromosome.
4. Condoleezza Rice (unranked): Out of nowhere comes Secretary Rice! Apparently, while I was gone during July, the Drudge Report “revealed” that she was not only a contender for the VP nod, but she was at the top of the list. Indeed, a Fox News poll suggests that she might be the most popular candidate in the field among Republicans (and probably among Independents, too, if I had to guess). It’s tough to determine if she wants the position, but she certainly has a lot going for her. She did endorse Romney at the end of May, showing her political stripes. If the Romney Campaign wants to go after women while simultaneously not opening themselves up for a Sarah Palin redux, Rice is their candidate. Frankly, if she wants it, they should probably give it to her; instant gravitas in foreign policy offsets Romney’s lack of experience in international relations. (Of course, in the back of their minds, Romney advisers might fear that a Rice selection forces the Obama Campaign to counter with Hillary Clinton, which would electrify a campaign that seems stuck in the mud.)
The Major Contenders
3. Marco Rubio (3): We get to the highest spot on this list where you’d still wager on all the guys ranked here or better over the rest of the field. Holding steady at #3 is Marco Rubio, though he was not able to take advantage of the McDonnell collapse from #2. We know what he brings to the table—primarily youth, looks, conservative credentials, and a boost with Florida, Latinos, and Florida Latinos—but he looks like pandering, he’s relatively inexperienced, has no executive credentials (thus not being able to take over on “Day One”), risks overshadowing Romney, and, above all, Stephen Kurczy is really down on him. If Romney were down 10 points and needed a high risk, high reward guy, I’d say Rubio would be it. But Romney doesn’t need that. He just needs to keep chipping away at the Obama economy and pick a VP that takes nothing off the table.
2. Tim Pawlenty (4): Up from #4, Pawlenty is a real contender. Romney has no more experienced surrogate. Since the former Minnesota Governor dropped out of the presidential field in the middle of 2011, he has been Romney’s biggest, most consistent high-profile supporter. Like I said in April,
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?
If the Romney Campaign goes with Pawlenty, I would not be surprised.
1. Rob Portman (1): Four months later, he’s still my guy. The best argument against him is that he was George W. Bush’s budget director. (As far as arguments against guys go, though, “directing George W. Bush’s budget” is a doozy.) Still, he met with the Romney team for six hours in one July day, he’s got legislative and foreign policy experience, he helps Romney in Ohio, and his bulky resume and straight-forward demeanor scream “We’re all business” in an election that the Romney Campaign wants to be about going to work to fix America.
Now we wait.