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Romney Campaign Getting Started On The Veepstakes

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reports that the Romney campaign is starting to turn its mind to thoughts of a Vice-Presidential running mate, and it’s looking like process will be very different from the haphazard, ultimately disastrous, process under taken by the last Republican Presidential nominee:

APPLETON, Wis. — Mitt Romney’s advisers and top supporters have begun informally discussing potential vice presidential candidates and believe that the sooner he can put away the Republican nomination, the more flexibility he will have in picking his running mate.

And although they are careful to note that the campaign is far from putting together a short list, key supporters and strategists said Friday that they are beginning to see the outlines of the kind of person Romney will choose — and the kind he will avoid.

In short, the habitually cautious candidate is less likely to try to make a splash by picking a game-changing candidate and more likely to choose someone safe, whom he sees as competent and ready to be president.

The conventional thinking has been that after a long and divisive primary campaign, the challenge of uniting the GOP would force Romney to pick a running mate with strong appeal to tea party activists and evangelicals. But Romney’s team thinks he may be liberated from that pressure if he can finish off remaining rivals Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul in the next few weeks.

Romney has not tapped anyone to oversee a vice-presidential search process. The strategy talk, one adviser said, is limited to “four guys on the campaign over a beer at night on the North End who might toss names around.”

Romney’s high command in Boston has not taken its eye off the primaries he still needs to win. And cognizant that he would be leading a divided party, they are seeking ways to win over reluctant conservatives. Still, it is unclear whether several months from now, when Romney chooses a running partner, he would be under pressure to pick someone who is demonstrably more conservative than he is.

His advisers said they do not believe geography will play all that important a role, and that he seems unlikely to choose someone to court a single state or constituency. He does not, so far, appear to have discussed the need to pick a minority or a woman, for example, to appeal to certain kinds of voters.

“The days when you could pick a vice presidential nominee and they could deliver a state are long over,” said Charlie Black, a veteran GOP presidential strategist and informal Romney adviser.

At the same time, early indications are that Romney will not repeat the error of 2008, when John McCain sought a dramatic choice but failed to run a thorough vetting process in picking Sarah Palin.

“I think the mistakes made in 2008 will have a big effect, as they should in 2012,” said strategist Steve Schmidt, who oversaw McCain’s selection of Palin. “The 2008 process was evaluated almost entirely through a political prism.”

This time, one Romney adviser said, “politics will matter less than you’d imagine.”

“Knowing Mitt as I do, I think he’s going to be very much of the school that we need a vice president who can become president,” said the adviser, who like others interviewed demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the vice presidential search process.

Based on this I think you can likely cross off the list any idea that Romey would go for some Tea Party conservative with little experience, or that he’ll pick one of his opponents.

Marco Rubio still seems to be a name that a lot of people mention, and he certainly comes across as a candidate that would be an appealing addition to the ticket for a lot of reasons. However, Rubio has said more than once that he isn’t going to be the VP nominee in a manner that suggests he doesn’t really want the job, not a bad decision on his part if true since running on a ticket and losing would likely mean the end of his national career. Another name that comes up a lot is Chris Christie and, while he used to joke about the absurdity of him being anyone’s Vice-President, his responses have become more circumspect now. All the same though, picking Christie would be problematic for Romney not only because it’s unclear how well his style would play nationally, but also because it’s generally not a good idea to pick a running mate that overshadows the candidate at the top of the ticket. This is also reason for them to think twice about putting Rubio on the ticket, actually. You can also knock off the list names like Susana Martinez, the Governor of New Mexico and Luis Fortuno, the Governor of Puerto Rico. They both may be extraordinary politicians, but they’re total unknowns on the national scene and there’s no way that the Romney campaign is going to take the risk of bringing on another Palin (not that I’m suggesting either Fortuno or Martinez are anything like Sarah Palin, from what I’ve seen of them they are both highly qualified, if inexperienced at this time).

At the end of the day, it seems like the likely VP running mates are the same two people that have been mentioned for most of the past year, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. On the positive side from the perspective of the Romney campaign, both men have a deep well of experience and ties to the conservative wing of the GOP. Both come from states that will be crucial in the General Election. And, most importantly, both men won elections in those states in the wake of large Democratic victories in the previous election cycle. There are negatives, of course. In Portman’s case, his time as Budget Director for George W. Bush is an unfortunate reminder of a record that the Republican Party still has not come to terms with. In McDonnell’s case, it’s his social conservatism and, more recently, the controversial abortion legislation that passed the state legislature (although it should be noted that McDonnell did intervene in the legislative process to water down the bill). Given the GOP’s ongoing problem’s with the Gender Gap, a McDonnell pick may end up being off the table simply because of recent developments.

It’s early in the process, though, and other names may come forward. However, at the end of the day, I’d put money on the VP selection being either Portman or McDonnell.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    Portman’s approval rating in Ohio is in the 20s, so I don’t know what he brings to the ticket(hurts badly in Ohio). Rubio would seem like a logic choice, but his role in that Fla GOP spending scandal probably eliminates him.

    If I had to bet money: Santorum, Eric Cantor or a random governor like Nathan Deal or Scott Walker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Sort of like being on the standby list for the Titanic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  3. Have a nice G.A. says:

    We need Scott Walker here!!! This state is starting to be worth a crap again!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  4. merl says:

    I doubt that he allows them to drink beer. Well, Walker will be out of a government job then. he’ll be working directly for the cock brothers soon

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  5. WR says:

    @Chad S: Well, the good news is that Scott Walker is probably going to be looking for a new job pretty soon…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  6. G.A says:

    Well, Walker will be out of a government job then. he’ll be working directly for the cock brothers soon

    lol…idiot.

    Well, the good news is that Scott Walker is probably going to be looking for a new job pretty soon…

    lol, the brilliance never stops around this place does it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  7. Brian says:

    I am dismayed at the Christie talk. You are probably correct that geography is less of a factor than it has been in the past. And even conceding that Romney won’t necessarily need to go all the way and select a Tea Party conservative, Christie makes no sense. Adding to the ticket another northeastern governor whose conservatism is suspect would simply be doubling down on one of Romey’s biggest problems..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. CSK says:

    John Thune? Although two tall, good-looking white guys on the same ticket might not cut it any longer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Nearly 2.2 million people in Ohio voted for Rob Portman in Nov. 2010 and the man never has come close to losing an election in that state. Team Romney utterly would have to be brain dead not to consider Portman.

    Bob McDonnell could help tip the balance in Virginia and that state indeed will be critical.

    Obviously Rubio.

    Pat Toomey wouldn’t be a horrible choice, although a completely non-Protestant ticket truly would be unprecedented.

    The way I see it that’s about it. Sandoval is a great guy with a stellar resume but Nevada is a tiny state. Martinez has a lesser resume than Sandoval’s and is representing the same (paltry) number of electoral votes. Pawlenty would have been a A+ choice in 2008, but since that time he’s done nothing and gone nowhere. Pawlenty also would be meaningless in Florida. Ron Johnson has a much lower national profile than Pawlenty’s.

    Were I in charge of the selection I would pick Rubio. Florida will be to this election what air is to breathing. Romney must win Florida to have any chance at the Oval Office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. G.A says:

    Rubio VS, Biden lol…..we will win in a landslide after that debate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  11. al-Ameda says:

    Seriously, Pat Toomey is the only one of the afore-mentioned group that should be under consideration. Senator Rubio is an empty suit with no appeal to anyone outside of the Florida Cuban-american community.

    As a Democrat, I actually hope that Santorum is on the Ticket – then we’d find out for sure if America is really as dumbed down as it seems to be.

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  12. merl says:

    I’m afraid we might just be that dumbed down.
    Willard would be picking Rubio to appeal to Hispanics. Ask Crash how his selection of Pinhead Palin helped with the women vote.

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  13. An Interested Party says:

    Were I in charge of the selection I would pick Rubio. Florida will be to this election what air is to breathing.

    Thankfully for Romney, you’re not…where is the evidence that picking Rubio would help Romney win Florida…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Gustopher says:

    Butch Otter, Governor of Idaho, and a man with a great name. Beyond that, I know nothing about him, but with a name like Butch Otter, how could he be a bad choice?

    I believe that a novelty name will be a great help in winning the low information voters.

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  15. Peter says:

    Butch Otter, Governor of Idaho, and a man with a great name. Beyond that, I know nothing about him, but with a name like Butch Otter, how could he be a bad choice?

    “Otter” is amusing, but isn’t “Butch” a bit, ahem, politically incorrect?

    But seriously, Otter wouldn’t add much to the ticket simply because there is no possible alternative-universe scenario in which Romney would fail to win Idaho. Otter’s age also might be a slight concern, he is soon to turn 70, especially as Romney himself is scarcely a teenybopper.

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  16. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “I believe that a novelty name will be a great help in winning the low information voters.”

    If that were true, Dale Bumpers would have been the Dem nominee in 92…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. PJ says:

    Rubio?

    A Mormon and a man who was raised as Mormon on the ticket? That will get those who already have issues with voting for a Mormon to get really excited about voting!

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  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Romney has enough gays in his inner circle that one of them will certainly know what a “butch otter” is and nip that one right in the bud. It would bring out all sorts of unintended hilarity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. casimir says:

    @michael reynolds: sure but even if the ticket loses, the VP candidate will be next in line so it could still be a personal victory for whom ever is chosen.

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  20. PJ says:

    @casimir:

    sure but even if the ticket loses, the VP candidate will be next in line so it could still be a personal victory for whom ever is chosen.

    No.

    Sarah Palin isn’t going to be next in line in 2012.
    John Edwards wasn’t next in line in 2008.
    Joe Lieberman wasn’t next in line in 2004.
    Jack Kemp wasn’t next in line in 2000.
    Dan Quayle wasn’t next in line in 1996.
    Lloyd Bentsen wasn’t next in line in 1992.
    Geraldine Ferraro wasn’t next in line in 1988.
    Walter Mondale WAS next in line in 1984. (And how did that work out?)
    Bob Dole wasn’t next in line in 1980. (But he was in 1996, and how did that work out?)
    Sargent Shriver wasn’t next in line in 1976.
    Edmund Muskie wasn’t next in line in 1972.
    William Miller wasn’t next in line in 1968.
    Henry Cabot Lodge wasn’t next in line in 1964.
    Estes Kefauver wasn’t next in line in 1960.
    John Sparkman wasn’t next in line in 1956.
    Earl Warren wasn’t next in line in 1952.
    John Bricker wasn’t next in line in 1948.
    Charles McNary wasn’t next in line in 1944.
    Frank Knox wasn’t next in line in 1940.
    Charles Curtis wasn’t next in line in 1936.
    Joseph Robinson wasn’t next in line in 1932.
    Charles Bryan wasn’t next in line in 1928.
    Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t next in line in 1924. (But he was in 1932. And that DID work out.)
    Charles Fairbanks wasn’t next in line in 1920.
    Hiram Johnson wasn’t next in line in 1916.
    John Kern wasn’t next in line in 1912.
    Henry Davis wasn’t next in line in 1908.
    Adlai Stevenson wasn’t next in line in 1904.
    Arthur Sewall wasn’t next in line in 1900.
    Whitelaw Reid wasn’t next in line in 1896.
    Allen G. Thurman wasn’t next in line in 1892.
    John A. Logan wasn’t next in line in 1888.
    William Hayden English wasn’t next in line in 1884.
    Thomas A. Hendricks wasn’t next in line in 1880.
    Benjamin Gratz Brown wasn’t next in line in 1876.
    Francis Preston Blair, Jr. wasn’t next in line in 1872.
    George H. Pendleton wasn’t next in line in 1868.

    The losing VP candidate most likely isn’t going to be next in line. And if that candidate ever runs for President, then the probability of him or her winning isn’t very good…
    The probability for being next in line is a lot lower if you’re the VP on the winning ticket, or, for a Republican, if you ended up second in the previous Republican primary.

    So if there’s someone who’s going to be second in line then that would be Santorum.

    If Romney is seen as a loser, then any Republican with his or her eyes on the White House will decline a VP spot.

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  21. PJ says:

    Nikki Haley says no to the VP slot.
    But really is this really the way should should answer another question:

    Though Haley has closed the door on having her name on the presidential ticket this year, she left it ever so slightly ajar about running for president herself in 2016.

    “I don’t know — I mean life has surprised me constantly,” Haley said when asked if she’d run in four years. “But that’s not anything I can imagine.

    “This is what I want to do,” the governor added. “So do I want to think about anything in the future? No. Why ruin where I am now?”

    As a Republican, and one who has endorsed Romney, shouldn’t any question about running in 2016, be answered with something like “Romney will be running for reelection in 2016, but ask me about 2024.”?

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