Friday, April 20, 2012

The Romney Veepstakes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jon Ward writing in the politics’ section of today’s Huffington Post provided an analysis of a dozen individuals whom Mitt Romney might consider as viable Vice-Presidential running mates.   He deftly listed the pros and cons of ten men and two women, as well as surmised the conditions under which each might be chosen to serve as second fiddle on the GOP ticket. 

Ward’s analysis looked at the experience each individual could bring to the ticket, as well as other factors such as geographic balance, gender and ethnicity, and compatibility with the older, rich, white guy who will presumably head the ticket.  And while he did a thorough job of vetting the potential veeps, Mr. Ward neglected to identify two of Romney’s most obviousness weaknesses, or to name the individuals who could most easily counter those deficits.

The twelve potentials put forth by Jon Ward were:   Congressman Rob Portman of Ohio, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, former governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and former governor and current Fox entertainment personality Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. 

From a geographical/electoral perspective Ohio and Florida are “must win” states for both parties.  Portman, according to the author, has a good political network in Ohio, but he is somewhat of a lackluster character and would not add much to the ticket in the way of personality.  Romney-Portman would be a pairing of two aging white men trying to appear relevant to a diverse nation.  Senator Rubio of Florida, however, is much younger (41) and would help to balance out Romney’s grandfatherly sixty-five.    Rubio is a Latino whose parents emigrated from Cuba before he was born, and he has an appealing biography.  Unfortunately, some of it is fiction.  

Marco Rubio says that he is not interested in becoming Vice-President, and just today he made himself more of a long-shot by proposing a limited Dream Act that would give some illegal youngsters access to college in the United States.  That legislation will put Romney in awkward position since he has adopted Joe Arpaio's "if you're brown, you go down" philosophy on immigration.

Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, also represents a state that Republicans must win if they are to recapture the White House.  President Obama took the traditionally Republican state in the 2008 election, but he should expect a repeat of that conquest to be very difficult to achieve.  Ward says that other than Portman, Governor McDonnell is the most personally compatible with Romney.

However, there is one fly in the ointment with Governor McDonnell that Ward failed to acknowledge.  The Virginia governor is on a crusade to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people, and he has recently written to all of the other state governors asking them to join with him in making certain that insane individuals have a very hard time acquiring weapons.  That won’t go over well with Ted Nugent and the troglodytes in the National Rifle Association who believe that everyone (except liberals) should be armed.  (But Romney probably thinks that he has that constituency tightly sewn up, particularly with a black man currently in residence at the White House.)

New Jersey would also be a very nice pick-up for Republicans in 2012 and, as Jon Ward points out, Chris Christie is an extremely popular Republican governor of a basically Democratic state.  Ward sees Christie’s biggest weakness in the veepstakes being his penchant for straight talk (the author refers to him as a “smash mouth”) and his exuberant personality.  Governor Christie might have a tendency to upstage the head of the ticket, and Mitt Romney is not the type of person who would enjoy being overshadowed.

Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley are both of Indian-American extraction, and both are governors of southern states – states that Romney will almost certainly carry regardless of who holds down the second spot on his ticket.  Jindal has had a fairly successful record as governor of Louisiana.  Haley’s record in the South Carolina statehouse has been more problematic.  Both would bring some ethnic diversity to the ticket, and Haley's presence on the ballot would help tamp down the Republicans' well deserved reputation for being anti-female.

Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.  Her state leans Democratic and she has been an acceptable governor (for less than two years), but electorally New Mexico is almost insignificant.  Still, a woman (and a Latina woman at that), would certainly add some much-needed diversity to a ticket headed by starchy-white, old Mitt.

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would also bring some youthfulness to the Republican ticket, but being the House architect of the plan to radically alter and/or eliminate such popular and necessary programs as Social Security and Medicaid, he would certainly provide the opposition with an endless stream of powerful talking points.  Ryan would be quite a gamble for a candidate like Romney who prefers being able to waver and flip-flop on his positions.

Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee?   Two yawns and a corndog.

Little Ricky Santorum certainly stands less than a snowball’s chance in hell in being selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate.   He lost his last statewide election in his home state of Pennsylvania by sixteen points, so there would be little electoral advantage in selecting him.  Santorum’s base, staunch Catholics and the tea party rabble, have no place to go but to Romney, so what would be the point in putting someone as pissy and poisonous as Santorum on the ticket?    And if all of that wasn’t enough to take Little Ricky out of the running, there appears to be a very strong level of animosity between him and Romney.

What major deficits did the author overlook, and who are the candidates most able to compensate for those deficits?  Mitt Romney has no military experience, nor does he have any substantive experience on the world stage or in the handling of international affairs.   (Doing two years of Mormon missionary work on the French Riveria probably won't impress anyone beyond Fraternity Row!)  But just who could add some military or international gravitas to Romney’s lightweight resume?  Two names leap to mind:  David Petraeus and Condoleezza Rice.

Petraeus is a former Army four-star general with over 37 years of experience in the military.  He was a chief architect in planning America's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But if he is to get credit for that, he must also own much of the blame for the endless and futile nature of those conflicts.  Petraeus was appointed to head the Central Intelligence Agency last September, a maneuver that may have been President Obama’s easiest way of finessing him away from the microphones of war.    Petraeus, the good soldier, would know and accept his place in the chain-of-command and would not be at risk of upstaging the star of the ticket.

Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice doesn’t have the military chops of Petraeus, but she is certainly well steeped in international relations and the diplomatic arts  - and she is a black American with a compelling story of growing up in segregated Alabama – and she is female.  If her last name were Gonzalez or Jiminez, she would be damned near irresistible to Romney and his advisors.   Ms. Rice has the added advantage of being able to pull the Romney ticket exactly where it needs to go – toward the center of the political spectrum.

While I would rather see Mitt Romney honor his party’s base and run with somebody who eschews true Republican values - like Ted Nugent or Joe Arpaio, for instance - I’m betting that when the dust settles in Tampa this August, Obama and Biden will be facing Romney and Rice.   The President should prevail regardless, but with Condoleezza Rice on the Republican ticket, it won’t be a cakewalk.

Don’t take anything for granted, Mr. President.

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