Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who should be Mitt's VP choice?

We don't know if Mitt Romney will be the Republican nomination, there is a chance that Rick Santorum will win in Michigan and will then go on to win in Ohio, North Dakota and more.  If Gingrich drops out of the race after Super Tuesday Santorum could catch up to Mitt very quickly in the delegate count (by March 24th).  But it still looks like Mitt will be the nomination.  Mitt will win in Arizona and do well enough in Michigan to increase his delegate lead significantly.  He also is guaranteed to win many states on Super Tuesday (Virginia, Massachusetts and Idaho for example).  Of course the chances of any republican candidate beating Obama is very small.   But with that being said it is still interesting to speculate who will be Romney's VP candidate.  Since I believe Romney will lose, I think this choice will have a bigger impact on the GOP than the actual election this year.  The VP candidate would be in a very good position to run in 2016, or certainly would be in a position to be very influential in the party.

While many who read this blog may be very fond of Romney he is a very weak candidate with many flaws.  He does not have a very good record of winning elections (Lost to Ted Kennedy, lost in 2008 to John McCain, did not run for reelection in Massachusetts).  He has changed his political stance significantly on several issues over the years and has a very different platform now compared to his in the 1990's when he ran for the senate as a moderate republican.  While he himself is very religious, and this might be the most important part of his identity, he rarely talks about his religion because it is considered to be a hindrance with a large part of the GOP electorate.  Romney also comes from an elite family and is worth up to 250 million dollars.  All of the above issues cause Romney to come across as a fake, and make it difficult for many voters to feel a connection to him.  This is particularly true in certain areas of the country (Bible belt, rust belt).  These are very important portions of the electorate map.  If Romney wants to beat Obama he has to shore up his weaknesses as a candidate as well as shore up his standings in these critical areas.  Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan will be important swing states this year.  With these thoughts in mind here is a list of potential candidates who could give Romney a boost.  McCain tried to get a boost with Sarah Palin but it backfired.  Had Romney been the VP candidate he may have been able to help convince the electorate that a McCain-Romney team was best to deal with the crumbling economy.

1. Marco Rubio.  Rubio is a star.  He is a Cuban-American and would give much needed diversity to a GOP ticket.  This would also be good in winning over parts of the Latino electorate.  The Latino electorate is very diverse and Romney won't get their vote anyway because of his harsh illegal immigration rhetoric, but by picking Rubio he will be able to minimize the losses.  Rubio has high favorability ratings and most importantly comes from Florida.  Romney did well in Florida in the GOP primary, a Romney-Rubio ticket would give them a good chance of taking the state in the general election.  Some potential problems with Rubio could lie in his inexperience.  He was elected to the senate in 2010, started work in January 2011.  Before this he worked in the Florida state legislature.  This might make him vulnerable to attacks that he is not ready to be president.  These were very effective against Sarah Palin in 2008.  He also does not seem interested in the job.  For Rubio it might be better to just wait until 2016 anyway.  He already has star status so what would losing with Romney do for him? 

2. Niki Haley- The current governor of South Carolina would give Romney the diversification needed, as an Indian-American woman she fits the bill perfectly.  South Carolina is a state where Romney has high negatives, but it is not a swing state.  She is only 40 and was just elected governor in 2010.  This makes her a more diverse version of Sarah Palin.  Gov. Haley does have more business experience than Sarah Palin, which is helpful in this election environment.  This pick can be seen as high risk low reward for Romney.

3. Chris Christie- Romney has to seriously be considering Christie for the VP slot.  Christie declined to run for president, he most likely would have been the nomination if he had.  He is a favorite of the tea party movement, he offers all of the strengths of Romney with almost none of the negatives.  This would solidify Romney as a pro-business fiscal conservative.  Christie would also go over well with social conservatives and evangelical Christians as he just vetoed a bill to allow gay marriage in New Jersey.  On the other hand, Christie is not overly popular in his own state (especially with women, another group Romney needs to do better with),he is also over weight and is another white male.  He would not be able to deliver a swing state and might not be able to help Romney too much in the areas of the country where he needs the help the most (Bible belt, rust belt). 

4. Susana Martinez- She is the governor of New Mexico and is very similar to Niki Haley.  She would help with the diversity question, would be from a swing state and be a nice complement to Romney.  She also was elected in 2010 and does not have too much experience.  New Mexico is a state that will be hard for Romney to win anyway, especially with former Republican New Mexico governor Gary Johnson running as a Libertarian candidate.  Johnson could get over 10% of the vote in New Mexico, most of which coming from Republican voters.  The state also only has 5 electoral votes which means it is not a make or break state for any candidate.

5. John Thune- Senator Thune from South Dakota has super star status in the GOP because of his victory over the former Democratic senate minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004.  Thune is from a part of the country where Romney needs to shore up his favorability.  South Dakota though is a state that has no meaning in a general election, only 3 electoral votes and it always votes Republican.  Thune would help Romney's favorability ratings in general with social conservatives and would also fit well with Romney's image of a fiscal conservative (I disagree that he is a fiscal conservative, but he has been successful in establishing that image).  Thune would be a very solid choice with no negatives, but also with a limited upside.  He is not from a swing state, does not offer up diversity either.  Romney has a lot of things going against him and needs a home run for his VP pick.  This is more like a double or triple, but no home run.

6. Bob McDonnell- The governor of Virginia comes from an important swing state and is popular in his state.  As a candidate he would be less exciting than Thune and would not complement Romney very well.  McDonnell got his MBA in Massachusetts and would not expand Romney's favorability into the Bible belt or the rust belt.  McDonnell could also be open to criticism on some social positions from independent voters. 

7. Rand Paul- One of the most interesting aspects of the campaign is the truce between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.  They do not attack each other and at times it seems as if Ron Paul acts as Mitt Romney's attack dog.  Ron Paul and Mitt Romney do not have much in common.  They are worlds apart when it comes to foreign policy and they have significant differences when it comes to the role of the government and the role of the executive branch.  Despite this there are reasons for them to have a truce.  Ron Paul sees Romney as the eventual nominee and wants to buddy up to him so he can then hope to have a larger role at the GOP convention.  Romney knows that Ron Paul draws his support from a different group of the electorate so there is no reason to attack him or criticize him.  For Romney, having Ron Paul take down Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum is certainly worth giving a speaking spot to Ron Paul at the convention.  This is a classic I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.  But what if there is something even deeper to the alliance?  I just read today that there is a chance that no one will get enough delegates.  Ron Paul could then give his delegates to Romney in a back door deal that would see Rand Paul as his VP pick.  Also, what if Romney thinks that Ron Paul’s electorate would be a good compliment to his?  the choice of Rand Paul as a VP pick would increase Romney's chance with independent voters, tea party voters and limited government voters.  This would prevent Gary Johnson from stealing New Mexico's Republican vote and would ensure that the libertarian vote would go to Romney.  Perhaps Rand Paul, as a doctor, could deflect some of the critisism that Romney faces on his Romneycare-Obamacare similarities.  Rand Paul is also very true to his principles which is something Romney lacks, and something voters are looking for.  This would also help Romney's money problem.  Some think that Romney is running out of donors because there is only a certain number of people willing to donate 2,500 for an election.  Ron Paul and Rand Paul would enable Romney to tap into an unlimited amount of small donations.  Every time Ron Paul has a money bomb fund raiser he raises over a million dollars based on small donations.  Ron Paul's support is often described as deep but not wide, there are not a lot of supporters but the supporters that are there are very dedicated.  Not many people get excited about Romney and many view him as the best available.  A Rand Paul VP pick would enable Romney to tap into the Ron Paul phenomenon.  This could help in certain swing states like Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

There are certain down sides to Rand Paul as well, even though he is more moderate than Ron Paul he still makes many in the establishment uneasy.  He is not from a swing state and there is no guarantee that the Ron Paulites would transfer their enthusiasm and money to Romney, even if Rand Paul is on the ballot.  It would also be a challenge to mesh Romney's Neoconservative principles and Rand Paul's libertarian ideology.  Perhaps Rand Paul could turn a blind eye (he is an ophthalmologist) to Romney's foreign policy and find a compromise on fiscal policy, perhaps with an audit of the Fed. 

8. Rick Santorum- Romney and Santorum have been going at it, but things haven't gotten so bad where they couldn't be on the same ticket.  Gingrich and Romney have already developed negative feelings so strong that they may not even be able to endorse one another.  Santorum in some ways is a perfect complement for Romney.  Romney is a rich fiscal conservative from the North East who also has popular support in the West. Santorum appeals to the working class and the social conservatives in the rust belt.  He would shore up support in two important parts of the electorate in a critical part of the country.  His social conservatism leaves him vulnerable to attacks from the media and could make him a liability among women voters and independents.  He also lost his last senate election by 18% and probably would not be able to deliver Pennsylvania. 

9. Tim Pawlenty- The former governor of Minnesota is only on this list because I wonder if there was a back door deal in the early days of the election.  Pawlenty dropped out of the election quickly and endorsed Romney shortly after that and has been a strong supporter ever since.  While it would be more than foolish to offer a VP slot at such an early junction in the campaign, Romney may have thought that a Pawlenty endorsement could help him seal the deal early on.  Pawlenty is also from a swing state and perhaps Romney over estimated his ability to deliver Minnesota and increase his favorability in the rust belt.  Pawlenty wouldn't be able to deliver Minnesota and would be create the most boring GOP ticket since Bob Dole and Jack Kemp in 1996, maybe even since Ford and Dole in 1976.

10. Bobby Jindal- The young governor of Louisiana would certainly meet all of the criteria in a VP.  He is from the South, he would help with diversity, he is very smart and capable.  He would also fit Romney's economy first campaign.  The reason why he is number 10 is because he was a strong supporter of Rick Perry.  It would be more than awkward for him to then support Romney after endorsing Rick Perry.  This is something Obama could exploit. 

Who do you think should be Mitt's VP choice?  Leave a comment

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