There is an 80% chance that this election will be close; a 10% chance Romney will win in a landslide, and a 10% chance that Obama will win with a solid victory. At this point, it is impossible for Obama to win a landslide due to a number of states where Obama would lose an election against a dead tree stump. The VP choice Romney makes could very well determine the race, and here are his top picks:
First, the top Tier:
1. Joe Manchin. The best possible pick for Romney is Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin is a conservative Democrat who has been outspoken in opposition to Obama. 2 years ago he campaigned by shooting a hole in the cap and trade bill. Since then he has opposed Obama's repeal of don't ask, don't tell; opposed Obamacare, and has a record in West Virginia of cutting taxes. Manchin is pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun, and more conservative than some Republicans. His selection would help Romney relate with working class whites and would win Romney PA, MI, OH, and would seal an election win. In 2004, Kerry would have won if McCain accepted his VP slot. This year, if Manchin is Romney's VP, it is game over, GOP victory.
2. Sam Brownback. Brownback is probably the most conservative pick Romney can make this year. Brownback spent 2 terms in the Senate, and is now governor of Kansas. He is unquestionably qualified for President, and would be viewed by all as the exact opposit of Palin (except that he is conservative). Brownback will not upstage Romney, and will compare well to Biden. A good, solid, choice.
3. Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush is qualified, safe, conservative, and he wins Florida. Unlike Rubio, Bush will not upstage Romney and will not face a real risk of being Palined (painted as unqualified).
Second, the mid-tier:
4. Senator Tom Coburn. If Romney wants to make the budget and fiscal issues his top priority, Tom Coburn is the man. Unlike Paul Ryan, who's budget doesn't balance for a generation, Coburn has been a real, long-term fiscal conservative with plans that actually balance the budget. Coburn has been the Senate's leading supporter to cut waste, fraud, abuse, and big government spending. Unlike Ryan, Walker, and Christie, Coburn has been tested, tried, and true and won state-wide re-election. Coburn is a the best choice for making a statement that Romney is serious about cutting wastefull spending. He is also safer than the above, and far safer than Rand Paul.
5. Bobby Jindal. Jindal is the closest to safe diverse pick avalible for Romney. Jindal is also somewhat rare in that he is a currently serving GOP governor who has been re-elected, is popular, and who is clearly ready to be President if needed. Jindal would be a great contrast to Obama on energy issues and is another solid pick. Jindal is also Southern, and thus a good Romney Balance.
What Romney Needs in a Candidate:
1. Most importaintly, Romney needs a VP choice to balances his 3 main weaknesses (1) his inability to relate to the common, working class man, (2) his inability to attract practicing Christians, and (3) his challenge in reaching out to independents and Democrats.
2. Romney needs a choice who is safe and cannot be used as a lightning rod against him. Romney already looks too political and like someone who just says whatever is popular. He needs to pick a solid VP choice who is capable of being president. He cannot afford picking a Palin.
3. Rove says that a VP pick only adds .6 - 3% to a canidates support in the home state of that candidate. For Florida, that could be the difference in the election. The same is true for a number of states. Home state is not the only importaint factor, but it does matter.
4. Romney needs a VP pick that will help define him. Romney is an etch-a-sketch candidate and needs a VP choice that defines him. If he picks a contraversial VP, it will destory him.
5. Romney will be sending a message of either confidence or fear in his pick. If he picks a minority, a woman, or a polerizing ficture that is a pick of fear. It will give the impression that Romney feels he needs to take a risk and thinks he will lose. A conservative, safe pick gives the impression that Romney thinks he will win and wants a safe pick. The message is very importaint.