I’m not Spock, so I can’t do a mind meld to discover what Mitt Romney is thinking. All I can do is offer some political analysis. This is an important decision, but let’s not be too melodramatic about it. 2012 is NOT 2008, and removing Obama from office is exciting the base no matter the VP candidate. A really terrible pick could depress the base, but Mitt won’t go there. In 2008, John McCain achieved his goal of winning the Republican nomination. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s goal is to be elected President. Some are going to moan and groan after the decision is announced, and like Rush recently said to a caller I don’t know what to say to a whiner.
Below is a list of the criteria for VP that Mitt has in mind:
- 1) Pro life: Romney’s selection will almost certainly have to tick this box. Pro life tends to be a requirement for winning the Republican nomination, but given Romney’s questionable conservative history on social issues, it is probably especially important to him.
- 2) Governor: One of the best things that Romney has going for him is that he hasn’t been in Washington the past few years. Picking someone else from outside the Beltway would be a plus for him. Moreover, “competent executive” is one of Romney’s campaign themes; picking another executive reinforces this argument.
- 3) Adequate experience: Call this the “Palin issue.” Romney will want someone who is ready for prime time, and who has served at least a full term in office, preferably as Governor or US Senator.
- 4) “First do no harm”: To be sure, every vice presidential pick opens up new lines of attack, as no politician is without his or her warts. At the same time, some attacks hurt more than others, some politicians would overshadow Romney, and some politicians are particularly gaffe-prone.
- 5) Loyalty: All politicians appreciate this trait and want to reward it. This isn’t a year like 1980 for the Republicans or 1960 for the Democrats, where there are obvious benefits to selecting an opponent from a different wing of the party in order to promote party unity or to seek regional advantage. Romney will prefer someone who has been a “Romney guy” since before the Iowa caucus.
- 6) Not scary: Romney has to avoid choosing a running mate whose social conservatism would become a lightning rod, and tend to dominate the debate.
The pro life position is the one that Mitt needs in order not to depress his base. Except for the Governor category, the other considerations in the mind of Mitt only make it more likely his VP choice will be bland and boring instead of a rock-ribbed constitutional conservative. Even so, whoever the VP candidate is no reason to stay home this election. Obama has got to go, and voting for Romney is the only sane option.
Below is a list of the names I believe are swirling around in Mitt’s head. Please understand that this list of names are not my recommendations, but my guess of possible names Mitt is considering:
- Bobby Jindal
- Tim Pawlenty
- John Thune
- Rob Portman
- Kelly Ayotte
Forty days from now we all will know who Mitt has selected for VP. Senate Minority Leader McConnell and political strategist Karl Rove have talked up Marco Rubio, and large donors have suggested Paul Ryan. I like Rubio and Ryan, but I don’t think they make the cut to the short list for the following reasons:
Marco Rubio: The additional revelation that Rubio was baptized as a Mormon and he’s now a Catholic could bring unwelcome attention to Romney’s Mormon faith.
Paul Ryan: Ryan’s budget plan has become a lightning rod, and it will be a focus of Democratic attacks in the fall and overshadow Romney.
Now I could be all wet in my guesswork. Discussion about what Mitt is thinking is welcome, and I can be persuaded that I have misread Mitt’s mind.