The speculation surrounding who will be Mitt Romney’s nominee for Vice President is at an all time high. The media and political pundits have been analyzing potential nominees’ strengths and weaknesses since Romney has secured the Republican nomination. Reporters and political analysts are watching every move that Romney makes as they try to read the tea leaves for clues as to who his selection will be.
A few weeks ago while Romney was traveling overseas, the Romney campaign dispatched a numbers of surrogates to battleground states. The conclusion that the media came to was that the campaign was kicking the tires so to speak on eight prospective vice presidential nominees.
The names included New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, and Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Since most people don’t purchase an automobile before test-driving it, the idea of testing out a potential running mate makes sense to a lot of people. The problem is that there is nothing practical about politics, especially at the highest level like a presidential campaign.
As you may have noticed, I have not participated in the vice presidential speculation game. The main reason is that it doesn’t make any sense to start making guesses in May and June since the Republican National Convention isn’t until the end of August. Following the media down countless rabbit trails means you invest a lot of time writing about perspective nominees that will never even be considered.
The other reason I have not weighed in on whom Romney’s Vice President nominee should be is that, frankly, it’s not my decision to make. The selection will tell us more about Mitt Romney than anything else. It is my belief that a running mate should be someone with whom the presidential nominee is comfortable. More importantly, it is my belief that a running mate should help the ticket win in November. So many times the media and the pundits forget that the main objective of a campaign is to win. Frankly, some of the names floated would not provide Romney with any additional advantage.
It’s not that I have not given a lot of thought to this subject. I have. I just realize that I’m more likely to be wrong than right. Take, for instance, the last two Republican selections for Vice President. Both Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin where non-conventional picks that surprised the media and Republican insiders. Both selections had nothing to do with winning the states that they called home. Instead, it was a personal decision by George W. Bush and Senator McCain.
Senator McCain’s selection of Palin caught many off guard. While a number of conservative media outlets became smitten with Palin after she defeated incumbent Governor Frank Murkowski in the 2006 primary and went on to win the general election by seven points, any mention of McCain picking Palin was typically greeted with plenty of doubters. That is, until he actually picked Palin.
If you follow the logic that the media is using today, mainly that no candidate who has been given a confirmed speaking slot at the Republican Convention will be the nominee, that means Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Jeb Bush, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, and Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are not in the running to be Romney’s vice president.
That may very well be the case, but Cheney was tasked with leading the Vice Presidential search for George W. Bush in 2000, a position that one would have thought excluded him from being a possibility, and yet he served as the 46th Vice President of the United States for eight years. That is why the more convinced that the media becomes that it’s not going to be somebody, the more validity I give that person.
So am I going to make a guess or just continue to blather on?
I think there are a number of people who deserve to be on the list. I would never count out names from the critical battleground states of Florida and Ohio. Face it, Romney can’t win the nomination without winning both of those states. For that reason alone, I refuse to eliminate both Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
I also refuse to dismiss someone who has been talked about the most. In Romney’s case, that is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice apparently stole the show at Romney’s big donor retreat in Utah a couple of months ago, and while some have shown displeasure in the possible Rice selection, she is a respected and accomplished individual.
The other factor that one shouldn’t overlook in regards to Rice is recent polling data. A hypothetical Rice VP nomination helped Romney in Florida in these polls in large part because of an outstanding favorability rating of 59 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable. With Republicans, her favorability was +65 (76/15), with independents it was +36 (62/26), and with Democrats it was +1 (42/41). Rice helped Romney go from being down in Florida to leading the state. The same was true of Rubio, but Rice isn’t from Florida, which means she would likely have a positive effect in all battleground states.
Another potential nominee that’s been discussed at length is Ohio Senator Rob Portman. Politico is reporting that Portman has raised a half million dollars for Romney at two recent Ohio fundraisers. There is immense value in having a running mate that can help raise funds. Portman might not be a high profile selection, but he’s safe and dependable, and he’s from a critical battleground state. Portman might not excite many activists, but he seems like a great fit for Romney. Romney is a straight-laced guy who does his homework, makes investments that he thinks will pay off, and doesn’t like surprises. That tends to lead me to Portman.
The recent chatter surrounding CIA Director General David Petraeus also intrigues me. Straight-laced? Yep. Will follow orders? Yep. From a battleground state? Yep, New Hampshire. He’s kind of the combination of Rice and Portman in some ways. The idea that Romney’s running mate would be Obama’s former CIA Director is simply rich. I would camp out to buy tickets to a Biden/Petraeus Vice Presidential Debate. How on earth could Biden and the Obama campaign attack the man and his positions?
A selection of Rice or Petraeus would provide Romney with a foreign policy trump card, and that is already one area in which I think Romney is particularly strong. So, why double down on foreign policy? One, it would ease any fears of removing a sitting president in a time unrest around the world. While foreign policy isn’t discussed enough in the campaigns, it is of critical importance to voters, if not consciously, then subconsciously.
Two, the selection of a strong foreign policy running mate for Romney almost ensures that the election will focus on economic issues. Still, the unknowns about Rice and Petraeus on domestic policies and their personal lives could be a sticking point. On paper, both are outstanding, but in reality, they might not have what it takes to be politicians. A presidential campaign isn’t the best place to get your feet wet so to speak. Just ask General Wesley Clark.
Long story short, I think the obvious choice is Portman. If Romney is feeling frisky, then maybe it’s Rice or Petraeus.