So, now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive GOP nominee for President, the next big question (besides “can he actually beat Obama”) is: who is the Veep nominee going to be?
Obviously, there’s a ton of speculation out there, and at the end of the day, that’s all this really is: fun speculation with a dash of “DAMNIT MITT, YOU’D BETTER NOT PICK A LOOP!” And as such, I intend to put my own vote / voice into the mix, giving you a list of the candidates that I think would be the best balance for Mitt – and that’s exactly what I think Mitt is going to look for – and I’ll admit that my own list keeps evolving (much more so than in 2008 when I picked Sarah Palin over Tim Pawlenty by a hair… in February 2008). While he may not pick someone from my list, he’s likely to be looking for someone who can balance out his ticket while not stirring up a lot of controversy. He’s going to run a very classical kind of campaign for the Presidency, with a minimum of “maverick” and a maximum of “this is what leadership looks like”.
And before I start getting the letters, no, I’m not a big Mitt fan. He’s far too moderate for my tastes, and no, I didn’t vote for him in the primary (unless his name was listed as “None of the Above”).
So, let’s start by asking: what will Mitt be looking for?
- Someone who has legislative experience. Mitt’s experience is governor, CEO, etc.: a chief executive. What he has in executive experience, he lacks in being a part of and leading a large group of diverse minds who has to push legislation through a gigantic committee. So he’s going to choose someone who’s been a legislator, probably on the national stage. While that means that governors can be on the list, I don’t think he’s going to choose someone who’s only experience is as another chief executive. So that means that folks like Sarah Palin, Nikki Haley, Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush, and Mitch Daniels are off the list.
- Someone who is NOT a loose cannon. Mitt’s got a lot on his hands and he’s smart enough to know that the last thing his campaign is going to need to deal with is someone who’s a loose cannon stirring up controversy and scaring off the critical independent voters. They don’t have to be a wet towel, but don’t expect a Dick Cheney-like nominee (whose stern approach was perfect for balancing Bush 2’s perceived goofiness). So all your fantasies about Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, or Ron Paul getting the tap? Not going to happen.
- No political neophytes. If they’re in the middle of their first term in politics, don’t expect the tap. He’s learned McCain’s lesson from 2008: a governor with little record makes for an unknown quantity and a blank canvass upon which your opponent can paint whatever he wants. Susana Martinez is a great governor who will not be nominated. Ditto, Brian Sendoval. Allen West, as much as I like him, probably won’t get the nod, either (although his military experience may cancel out this concern).
- Someone who isn’t a moderate. Mitt’s moderate enough, so much so that he’s alienated a lot of the more conservative voters. He needs someone who’s going to balance out his moderateness with a nice contrast of a solid conservative with credentials. So your middle-ground guys like John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, or Scott Brown. And while some fantasize about it, no Democrats like Heath Shuler, either.
- Someone who isn’t a hard-right conservative. Not saying that a strong conservative won’t get tapped, but guys like Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Jim Demint will just stir up too much controversy and give the Democrats too many open avenues of attack for extremism. Plus, those guys are doing a great job right where they are. No sense in opening up their seats for potential steals by the Dems.
- No Yankees. No Utahans. The “Yankee” thing is simple: Romney must, must, must win the South in order to move to Pennsylvania Avenue. Someone who talks about putting “buttah on the corwhn” isn’t going to appeal to someone with a twang. Southerners tend to see Northeastern Republicans as alien liberals who don’t value what they value – and it’s likely this could extend to the West Coast as well. Plus, I’ll scratch everyone from Utah off the list since Romney’s religion is weird enough to evangelicals to allow matters to be complicated by yet another Mormon (or perceived Mormon). Mike Lee, Bob Bennett, Orrin Hatch – you’re out. So are you, Pat Toomey.
- Mainstream Christian. Speaking of religion, expect Romney to nominate someone who goes to church on a regular basis. His religion is going to make it difficult for mainstream Christians (who loathe Mormonism as a cult) to accept him as the nominee, and a strong mainstream (yet not overly evangelizing) Christian will balance these concerns out. I already mentioned the Mormons.
- Battleground State Citizen. If he can steal votes away from Obama in a battleground state, then he’ll do it – or at least, he’ll nominate someone who can help steal them. That means Chris Christie is a non-factor. Sorry. Condi Rice, too. And Tim Pawlenty. That’s a shame.
In other words, he’ll need the anti-Romney. And so, who do I think will be the best balance? It would look a-like so:
- Sen. Rob Portman (OH): I keep leaning towards Rob as one of my top pick for some reason, and honestly, I don’t know why, because there’s at least 2 other picks I think would be better. He’s an experienced legislator that’s well-respected within his own party, he’s fairly conservative (87.92 Lifetime ACU rating), and he’s got a great background in economics and finance. He’s also a bit dull (we need a tad more excitement) and his service in the Bush Administration as the director of the OMB right before the recession hit and time as a Trade Representative could be a big liability.
- Senator Marco Rubio (FL): Another one that keeps popping up at the top of the list. He’s conservative, young, and a minority (which could be an asset or a liability depending on how it gets spun by the media). He’s also indicate a lack of interest in the office and has a limited amount of time on the national stage – and his planned conservative-friendly version of the DREAM Act has some hard-right folks scared. Honestly, as high of an opinion as I have of him, I’m not sure he’d be the best nominee.
- Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN): A solid long-term legislator with conservative credentials out the yahoo. While Tennessee isn’t a battleground state, her southern twang could help nab the Southern States. Plus, she’s not too young (like, say, Cathy McMorris Rodgers), which helps to alleviate the Sarah Palin “cupcake” factor (don’t get mad, folks – I like Sarah… but you have to admit that the woman got typecast by the media as a bubblehead because of her youth and beauty). She’s just not very well known outside of Tennessee.
- Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA): Another southerner who could help Romney sweep the south. He just started his second term as a very successful governor and served in the US House before running for governor. He’s got a strong background in healthcare (thus negating one of the Democrats’ core issues) and is well-respected by conservatives for his leadership and willingness to stand up to Obama. He’s also a bit clumsy with public speaking, so there’s that.
And then there’s the last one… a dark horse candidate that, I believe, would represent the best option for Mitt Romney in 2012. And while I’ll admit to a bit of local bias to this guy, I’m going to stand by him as the guy who I think is the best nominee out there for 2012.
- Sen. Richard Burr (NC): Nobody’s been talking about Richard Burr, which would mean he’d be a fantastic blindside nominee. Let’s do the list: he’s a legislator who’s led a solid conservative, but not radical career since his first election in 1994 as a part of the Republican Revolution, he’s an evangelical Christian (the son of a minister) who graduated from Wake Forest University, started as an appliance salesman and worked his way up via blood, sweat, and tears to national sales manager of the company he worked for, and he’s a Southerner from a battleground state who’s fairly well-respected in the state. Should he be nominated, he wouldn’t have to worry about his Senate seat for 4 more years and given that the likely next governor of North Carolina will be a Republican (GO PAT MCCRORY!), his (temporary) replacement, should he win the Vice Presidency, will be another Republican. He’s also a descendant of Vice President Aaron Burr and the first NC Senator since Jesse Helms to be re-elected by the state. The downsides? Well, he’s got a few ticks against him in terms of votes on some controversial issues (he supported ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and flipflopped on the 2007 Immigration bill), but that’s about it. That and the fact that the last Senator from North Carolina to be nominated for Vice President is currently on trial (John Edwards), but that’s really a non-point.
Do I expect Burr to get tapped? I dunno. I’d like to see him, but I’d be happy with the others. There’s a few other folks that I think may be possibilities (Bob McDonnell – I like him, but I don’t know if he could deliver VA, Allen West – I really like him, but he’d be a very controversial nominee), but I really am starting to think that this is the list of folks that is the most solid balance for Romney come convention time.
We’ll see what happens.