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Fifteen names, to start with, including a Washington state congresswoman.
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Former Gov. Frank Keating, Okla. — Pro: Tremendous pre-gubernatorial career in law enforcement and as deputy to Jack Kemp at HUD, plus acclaimed crisis management after the Oklahoma City bombing. Con: No geographical advantage; lobbyist for insurers and then for bankers, plus a legal but still attackable record of accepting personal gifts from mutual fund honcho Jack Dreyfus.
Former Attorney General, U.S. Senator, Gov. John Ashcroft, Missouri — Pro: I have promoted him from my “Crazy Eight” list, for all the reasons listed there. Con: Despite heroic hospital-bed stand, still suffers from utterly unfair media image as humorless right-wing prig.
Former Attorney General and federal judge Michael Mukasey, New York — Pro: A completely surprise pick, he could really do damage, with great credibility (including extravagant praise from Chuck Schumer, of all people), to Obama on terrorism issues and on Eric Holder’s lawlessness. Unquestioned integrity. Con: No geographical advantages, no experience as a campaigner, and of utterly uncertain conservatism on any issue other than law-and-justice.
Former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, Col. — Pro: Another surprise pick, this solidly conservative and personally upright political veteran (and former veterinarian) has never lost an election in his highly significant swing state, and has the credibility of abiding by a personal two-term-limit pledge. Con: A back-bencher and, like Thune, is not known for national leadership on any major issue or cause.
(Note: These last two picks in this column come closest to meriting a bump up to the “Top Ten” list that will be featured in the next installment of this series.)
Judge Janice Rogers Brown, U.S. Ct. of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, from California — Pro: It’s not that she is a black woman (although that fact alone might so freak out the left that they over-attack and reveal their essential viciousness, to Obama’s detriment), but rather that her principled libertarianism could strongly energize Paulite libertarians, who really do form (along with suburban professionals and blue-collar whites) the third major “swing group” in American politics. Con: It would be a big conservative sacrifice to take her off the bench, plus there’s doubt as to whether she could curb her outspokenness enough to be adequately politic (in the adjectival sense) for a close election.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Wash. — Pro: Incredibly impressive and likeable rising star, wonderfully conservative, with a useful portfolio of issue leadership including women’s health, child-support enforcement, health, and education. Con: Probably no geographical advantage, as Washington State seems a lost cause, plus as just a four-term U.S. House member (albeit the House Minority Leader in her state legislature before that) she might strike some as not quite yet qualified for the job.
Ten names remain for the next two installments of the series. Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of McMorris Rodgers. Maybe the next installment will include her as choice 10B. I’d sure like to see how she polls in Washington State as a whole, and how focus groups in more likely swing states respond to her.
Meanwhile, if readers have other out-of-the-box suggestions (please no obvious Ryan/Portman/Rubio entries, etcetera, because of course the front-runners will all get covered in my next column), please post them in the comments section.
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