Now Romney needs a running mate

by Brendan Monaghan

With the Republican presidential primary race now officially over (sorry, Paul fans), Governor and Nominee-in-Waiting Mitt Romney can now focus on taking the fight to President Obama. The task will not be an easy one, given the inherent advantages of incumbency and a billion-dollar war chest. He can also begin to consider who might make an effective running-mate for his ticket in Tampa. Romney was unwittingly compared by an aloof staffer to the Etch-a-Sketch toy that many of us remember from our childhoods. With that in mind, the nominee seems to face a game of “Guess Who?” where tiles of potential candidates are flipped over and eliminated based on various qualities- “does your person wear glasses?” not being one of them.

Does this person even want the job?

Click, click, click, click! Down go the likes of Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Paul Ryan, and Governors Chris Christie and Nikki Haley. Despite considerable cheerleading from the supporters of these Republicans- and the political advantages each would bring to a Romney ticket- none of these four seem all that keen on leaving where they are now. Senator Rubio, in his characteristic eloquence, spoke of a promise to keep with Florida voters, who sent him to Washington not two years ago. Ryan knows he’s needed where he is: authoring the House’s DOA budgets, waiting to get down to real business should Republicans take back the Senate, and ready at a moment’s notice to assume command should Speaker John Boehner be overthrown by his own caucus. Governor Christie is nobody’s number two (and not yet ready to be number one), and Haley, plugging her new book on the talk show circuit, gave a refusal that was positively Shermanesque.

Would Mitt Romney even think of making this person his Vice President and putting them a heartbeat away from the Presidency?

Click, click, click, click, click! Down go Rick Santorum and most of Romney’s primary rivals. Governor Romney singled out the Senator by name as someone he would not consider as a potential running-mate, citing Santorum’s protectionist and interventionist stances on economic issues. Furthermore, rivals are rarely put on the ticket next to their hatchet-burying nominee, and make little difference in the outcome when they are. John Edwards hardly helped John Kerry in North Carolina, going ofer in the south. Did George Bush really push Ronald Reagan over the line in 1980? Ask any conservative pining for his return and resurrection. Lyndon Johnson is perhaps the exception, as George Will pointed out, allowing John Kennedy to win/steal Texas. Put simply, it was not by accident (or a ton of money) that Mitt Romney was the last man standing.

Is this person ready to become President tomorrow?

Click, click, click! The 2010 elections provided Republicans with a bumper crop of freshman Governors, Senators, and Congressmen with tremendous upside potential. However, damn few of them are ready, right now, to become Commander-in-Chief should something dreadful happen to President Romney. Down go Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Rand Paul, and Congressman Allen West. Republicans have sometimes struggled with this truth, that a half-term (or less) in state or federal office in no way prepares someone for the toughest job in the world. Democrats made Senator Dan Quayle and Governor Sarah Palin major liabilities in the campaign and responded with running-mates Lloyd Bentsen and Joe Biden, respectively, who seemingly had been in Washington longer than the Republican upstarts had been alive. Mitt Romney needs every advantage he can get against Obama this fall. History has shown the Vice Presidential pick is a one-shot deal (see: George McGovern). He can’t afford to risk getting it wrong with a political novice who could very quickly prove to be in way over his or her head.

Is this person both Tea Party tested and swing-voter approved?

Click, click, click, click! Down go country club members Haley Barbour and Olympia Snowe, along with Tea Party cranks like Susan Angle and John Bolton. Mitt Romney needs a running-mate more conservative than himself to sweep up the remaining Irreconcilables and unite the Party faithful against Obama/Biden . . . but not someone too crazy to attract the moderates and independents necessary to win. The Tea Party provided much of the energy, enthusiasm, and spoils of the 2010 cycle. They also were not particularly supportive of Romney and his Establishment essence until Wisconsin; they were holding out for one of their own. Romney thus needs a running-mate with Tea Party instincts, with demonstrable Tea Party credentials and support. Witches and bat-wielding hacks aside, quite a few Tea Party candidates became officeholders in otherwise difficult-to-win areas, carrying demographics and groups Republicans need to win this year. The Tea Party is now a three-year old movement- finding a running-mate who acts more mature than this age will be key to his success.

Is the person at the bottom of the ticket indistinguishable from the person at the top?

Click, click! Down go Senator Rob Portman- whose specialization in economic and fiscal matters add nothing to the ticket- and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, too unknown and indistinguishable for the witness protection program. What every nominee looks for in a running-mate are complementary qualities, not those that reinforce or clash with the candidate himself. Romney’s qualities and shortcomings have been well documented and examined by now. The drab, gray suit needs a colorful tie to complete the outfit. For Mitt, this means avoiding picking a nominee who, despite making it this far, is too much like himself.

Are you a woman?

Click! You’re Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire!


Brendan is a graduate student at Portland State University, where he hosts the KPSU “Right Jab” radio program, and a regular contributor at Oregon Catalyst. Brendan is studying political science, and graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007, with a degree in political science.