Romney VP Selection- Part 2: Federal Office Holders
In part 1, I laid out some facts and trends regarding Vice Presidential picks before looking at Governors. I failed to mention an important fact regarding members of Congress being chosen. Although the only member of the House tapped in recent elections was Geraldine Ferraro, when it comes to Senators, 75% of the choices of Democrats were Senators while for Republicans, only 20% of the choices were Senators. However, it is also a trend that when an ex-Governor is the nominee, they tend to pick someone who is a Washington “insider.” The examples are Carter’s choice of Mondale, Reagan’s choice of Bush, Dukakis’ choice of Bentsen, Clinton’s choice of Gore and Bush’s choice of Cheney.
Today, there are counter prevailing thoughts regarding the term “insider.” At the time the Vice Presidential choice is named, they must at least appear Presidential and who could “appear” more ready for the job than a current federal office holder? But conversely, the term “Washington insider” has taken on a negative moniker of late and is perceived as being the reason for what is wrong with government. It is likely the reason that so many new faces were elected to Congress in 2010, along with a general repudiation of Obama policies, although he- Obama- likes to spin it differently.
There is no shortage of qualified Senators or Congressmen in the Republican Party. Many readers here and elsewhere have gone on the record as supporting a Jim DeMint nomination. That is fallacy! Yes, he would enhance the conservative credentials of the ticket and draw in the Tea Party contingent. However, it would also play into the Democratic portrayal of the GOP offbeing beholden to the extreme conservatives within the party. (Note: So what? That is not necessarily such a bad thing). For the same reasons, although she would certainly break the mold, Michelle Bachmann is not a realistic choice. My personal scenario for Bachmann is to win another two years to the House then take on Al Franken for Senator in 2014 and get that joke of a politician out of the upper chamber of Congress. Talking of unlikely extreme conservatives, lets just forget about Alan West who may not even win reelection to Congress. Simply, he is too much of a bomb-thrower (although those bombs usually have grains of truth). Paul Ryan has conservative credentials and would probably make a better OMB director than Vice President. Again, personally I believe he serves a greater role and purpose in the House than living on the grounds of the Naval Observatory.
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania would look like a choice that would appeal to conservatives. However, he is a new Senator with two years experience in that chamber. To replace him, a special election would have to be held in Pennsylvania and that would unnecessarily jeopardize Republican control of the Senate. Just as we need Ryan in the House, we need Toomey in the Senate.
At this point, I think it necessary to discuss what the media and pundits are discussing as an important criteria- ethnic diversity on the GOP ticket. Because minorities have surpassed whites in the general population should never be a reason for picking anyone for anything in an alleged color-blind society. When consulting a variety of sources looking at possible running mates for Romney, a recurrent theme listed in the “con” column was the fact there was a white face behind the name. This factor as a consideration is nothing but reverse racism. In part 1, I stated that Bobby Jindal was the most likely choice among Governors not because of his race, but because of his accomplishments as Governor of Louisiana. For all I cared, his name could have been John Smith and his ancestors came on the Mayflower. Hopefully, Romney and his staff who vet Vice Presidential possibilities have the same philosophy and do not summarily dismiss white, qualified individuals.
Before I get to the two strong possibilities, let me dismiss two others, or lessen their chances. The first is first-term Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Although hailing from a swing state and having won a hard-fought strong campaign in 2010, the choice of someone from a swing state is overblown in its importance. Secondly, she is a relative unknown and unvetted with strictly regional appeal. Yes, yes- she is a woman. However, a freshman Senator from New Hampshire and a former Governor of Massachusetts is totally unrealistic.
Likewise, although not a woman, Marco Rubio is from a swing state and Marco Rubio is Hispanic. But, that needs qualification. Having worked with Hispanics in many areas, there is a certain “pecking order” within that community. Rubio is of Cuban heritage and, quite frankly, Cuban immigrants have very little in common politically with immigrants from Mexico/Central America who have very little in common politically with immigrants from South America- other than a Spanish surname. Cubans tend to be more conservative, Central Americans and Mexicans more “liberal,” and South Americans falling somewhere in between. Perhaps that is because South Americans entered the country legally while Cubans were welcomed here in their flight from Communist oppression. Conversely, Mexicans and Central Americans have an affinity or empathy for those who came here illegally and tend towards a more “open border” stance with respect to immigration policy. Thus, the choice of Marco Rubio as a running mate would have appeal only to a small subset of the Hispanic population nationally. True, Rubio does have certain qualities such as appeal to the Tea Party element, youth, and charisma. But Freudian slips withstanding, his enthusiasm for the job is somewhat lacking.
Another name being mentioned is that of freshman Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. He would be a safe choice in that he would not overshadow Romney and he has the economic background in an election cycle likely to be dominated by economic issues. The pitfall may be his tenure in the Bush Administration, an Achilles heel that Democrats will likely exploit and distract from the national dialogue. Sadly, many qualified former Bush Administration officials may be summarily eliminated. The main reason people like Portman or Rubio are mentioned is not only their qualifications, but the fact they hail from swing states. But as was mentioned previously, the choice of a VP nominee from a swing state rarely results in winning that state. That is, the Vice Presidential choice does not insure victory in that state.
Instead, there are two names that seem a more likely option for Romney if he goes this route. On the one hand, there is that propensity for ex-Governors at the top of the ticket to choose a Washington “insider.” On the other hand, the phrase “Washington insider” carries neagtivity. Hence, if he goes this route, the “insider” cannot be too much of an insider- more an under-the-radar choice than the more visible possibilities like a DeMint and one with more experience than a Rubio or Portman. That leaves two people- Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Thune of South Dakota.
Corker would be a safe nominee and one with substantive experience that would have appeal in the south. In many areas, Corker would be a perfect ideological fit with Romney at the top of the ticket. Ironically, that may not necessarily sit well with the more conservative elements in the GOP. Also weighing against Corker is the fact he is running for reelection to the Senate this year. Although a Republican replacement would likely succeed him in the Senate thus not placing control of the Senate at risk, its more likely he would decline an invitation to run with Romney.
That leaves someone more to the right than Corker as a real possibility- John Thune. He is considered a rising star in the party. His replacement would likely be Republican. He fits the mold of recent nominees from a state with minimal electoral votes. He would reassure conservatives of the ticket while remaining enough of an “outsider” although an “insider.” Additionally, he would not overshadow Romney at the top of the ticket.
In conclusion, using all the criteria set forth, the most likely choice, if Romney chooses a current federal office holder, will not hail from the House of Representatives, but the Senate (although that too would go against GOP trends in this area). Instead, the safest most logical choice is John Thune. If he wants an ideological mirror, then he will choose Bob Corker. If he wants to erroneously pander to Hispanics, then Marco Rubio.