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.