Romney running mate speculation begins in earnest

Now that the Republican primary race seems to be effectively over as far as the pundits are concerned, they will have to fill airtime and newsprint with other sources of endless and mindless speculation. Brace yourselves because from this point onwards, you can be sure that nothing substantive will be discussed and the media will lurch from one ginned-up ‘controversy’ to the next, often about the most trivial things, with each one being framed in terms of its impact on the election.

One issue that we can expect to see until the Republican convention is the floating of a string of names as possibilities for Mitt Romney’s running mate. This is a media favorite since one can endlessly discuss the merits of a vast number of individuals. Our local newspaper has already started touting local boy Senator Rob Portman as being a likely choice and I suspect other states are also promoting the virtues of their favorite sons and daughters.

As I wrote before, I don’t think that the vice-presidential pick is that important except in a negative way, in that a bad choice can harm you more than good choice can help. If history is any indication, it seems best to go with a safe choice and pick someone who has been in public life for awhile, whose past has already been examined, and whose views are already well known.

This does not mean that one should more or less choose at random. Within that subset of safe candidates, it makes sense to pick someone who complements the nominee. As was pointed out in a comment in that earlier post, Lyndon Johnson probably helped John Kennedy in 1960 win Texas and maybe a couple of other states. But Johnson was already a well-known figure when he was selected, being a long-time congressman and Senate majority leader, so he met the criterion of being familiar and safe.

What Romney has to be concerned about are three things: women and Hispanic voters who have been turned off by Republican policies on issues that are central to them; how enthusiastic his supporters will be in canvassing for him; and how people who see themselves as ‘centrists’ or ‘moderates’ or ‘independents’ view him.

Romney strikes me as a cautious figure and I doubt him gambling like John McCain with Sarah Palin in 2008, especially given that disastrous outcome. His problem is different and rather unusual. While Romney will likely choose someone who is familiar to the public and will complement him in areas where he thinks he is weak, his problem is that his extreme swings on almost all major policy issues, especially social ones, puts him in a quandary because it is not at all clear how voters perceive him now. The problem with having been such a shameless political chameleon, giving the impression that he will say anything to win, that it is hard to gauge where the public thinks he is.

If he fears that voters still see him as the fiscal and social moderate that he portrayed himself as in his Massachusetts governor days, and that this will turn off the loonies, then it makes sense to pick someone who will fire up fiscal and social conservatives. But then those people who do not follow politics that closely and have only heard his recent rhetoric that he is a ‘severe conservative’ may be turned off by what they see as an extreme ticket.

If he thinks that voters have been persuaded by the primary campaign to see him as a born-again conservative, then he might pick someone seen as more centrist to try and allay the misgivings of minorities, women, and social moderates. But this runs the risk of those conservatives who already view him with skepticism becoming even more suspicious of his conservative bona fides.

I suspect that he will go with the second option, concluding that rank and file Republicans will vote for the party no matter what because they cannot conceive of voting Democratic and that Fox News can be relied upon to deliver these people. The extreme nutcases that are so vocal in the party have become so unhinged in their Obama hatred that they would vote for the Republican ticket even if Romney were to pick Charles Manson to be his running mate, now that Manson’s attempt at gaining the party’s nomination has ended with his latest parole bid being turned down. The danger here is that while they may vote for him, this bloc may not be enthusiastic about campaigning for him.

Meanwhile Stephen Colbert has what he thinks is an excellent vice-presidential suggestion for Romney.

(This clip appeared on April 9, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)


  1. left0ver1under says

    Romney *is* a rightwingnut, and needs to choose a “moderate” to have any chance of attracting undecided voters. And yet if he does choose a “moderate” conservative, he’ll alienate the even-further-right nutbags.

    The Koch brothers and other financiers of the wall street types might feel so betrayed by a “moderate” choice that they’d back a “third party” last minute candidate and try to get the teabagger vote. You might see the largest third party candidate total votes, but the national vote would be so split that Obama wouldn’t even have to campaign to win.

  2. jamessweet says

    I think Ann Coulter was right (cough, hack, ugh, I feel so dirty!) when she said that Romney needs to steer away from anyone who will be perceived as a “novelty candidate”, because it will remind voters too much of Palin. It would be really helpful to him if he could pick a highly-qualified woman, but I think so soon after 2008 he doesn’t really have that option — it would just dredge up too many bad memories of facepalms. Similar with a wingnut. He’s gotta pick somebody really moderate, safe, but hopefully charismatic to counter his own robot-ness.

  3. Aliasalpha says

    How about a monkey trained to throw its poo at democrats? He could even wear a shirt that says “I aint ur relative!” to appeal to the creationists

    I presume this isn’t the colbert suggestion, too lazy to bypass regional blocks

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Romney needs a southerner (sorry, Sen. Portman), both for the traditional concept of a “balanced ticket” and to motivate turnout in the former Confederate states now considered in play (VA, NC, FL).

    And he’ll have some pressure to pick someone “ethnic”. Among known faces, that pretty much leaves him with Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Bobby J’s last national appearance was generally deemed a flop, whereas Marco R is still considered a hot property in Wingnuttia (besides, his nomination would produce a slate of two MR’s -- how could the GOP resist?).

    Would it be too much to ask Obama to please please please not screw up too bad for the next 7 months?

  5. lordshipmayhem says

    it seems best to go with a safe choice and pick someone who has been in public life for awhile, whose past has already been examined, and whose views are already well known.

    Pat Robertson. His views are very well known, he’s been in public life for awhile, and his past has already been examined.

    He’d make any ticket instantly unwinnable with the general public (not that Mittens helps a Republican ticket noticeably), but that doesn’t seem to be an issue with anyone in the Republican Party.

  6. slc1 says

    1. The problem with Rubio is that the whacknutdaily has already proclaimed that he is not a natural born citizen because his parents weren’t citizens when he was born.

    2. Another possibility is Virginia Governor McDonnell, although his star somewhat dimmed over the controversy of the ultrasound requirement before getting an abortion.

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