Finally, the answer on whom Romney should choose.
It’s finally time, after multiple columns on the subject, to count down to the very best choice for Mitt Romney to make as his running mate. Before doing so, let’s just note that if this highly interesting piece from Sabato’s Crystal Ball continues to be accurate — and if focus groups show that a form of identity politics really would make a difference in attracting the key swing voters identified therein (meaning politically independent white women aged 30-49) — then it might really make sense for Romney to choose either New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte (breaking my two-year rule; but she really does seem to have steel in her spine) or Washington State’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers. But I’m not a big fan of identity politics of any kind.
Also, if other polls confirm the recent one showing a dead heat in Michigan, then Romney darn well ought to take a closer look at the pros and cons of selecting either Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp or former Gov. John Engler. Taking Michigan from the Democrats would give Romney a much greater number of paths to electoral victory.
But let’s set those possibilities aside. Without further ado, here are Hillyer’s Superior Six choices for vice president, with the best two choices last, in a class of their own:
6. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, FL — On the down side, it is sheer folly to think that Americans of Mexican or Puerto Rican or Guatemalan descent throughout the country will be particularly attracted to the Miami-Cuban American Rubio. It is not clear that Rubio even helps much in his home state; polls are mixed, with one poll showing he actually would hurt the ticket. Also, the reality is that Romney should win Florida anyway; if he can’t, then his campaign is in deep trouble. A much stronger Obama in 2008 won Florida by about 236,000 votes; but, as per Karl Rove, just since Jan. 2011, GOP registration there has risen by nearly 45,000 while Democratic registration has dropped by 79,000. So Romney should do well in the Sunshine State without Rubio.
Also, of course, Rubio still is awfully green: Less than two years in the Senate, even if bolstered by a stint as Speaker of the House in Florida, hasn’t provided him time for any real legislative accomplishments.
All that said, Rubio is a tremendous political talent. He appears to be a true conservative, and he really seems to understand, embody, and articulate the essential nature of the American creed of freedom. He would provide a jolt of excitement to the ticket, energize volunteers, and maybe inspire younger voters not just to abandon Barack Obama but to affirmatively turn out for Republicans. Those strengths of Rubio are nothing to sneeze at.
5. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, WI — Even before Paul Ryan morphed from impressive young congressman to conservative superstar, I was touting him back in 2008 among the four best choices for vice president. He would remain a superb choice. He can explain Republican budget and entitlement positions better than almost anybody out there, in terms almost anybody can understand; he knows how to attract blue-collar votes; and he might help Romney finally snatch Wisconsin for Republicans at the presidential level.
On the other hand, he does present the risk of turning the election into a referendum on “scary” Republican proposals rather than being a referendum on Obama’s four years of failure and radicalism. Plus, if my reading of voter psychology is correct, choosing Ryan might actually hurt the GOP ticket at the margins in Wisconsin. Why? Well, ordinarily this wouldn’t be the case; in fact, just the opposite would be true, as I sense that Ryan is quite popular in his home state. But Wisconsin’s politics are unique this year. I think the recent win for Scott Walker in the recall battle already has conservatives/Republicans energized, enthused, and mobilized for the fall. The superb ground game built by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus probably will work just as well whether or not Ryan is on the ticket. On the other hand, I think the Wisconsin Left is tremendously dispirited, and probably not ready for another massive effort. But if Ryan were on the ticket, the Wisconsin Left would see it as a direct challenge, almost rubbing their faces in their loss, and thus might rouse itself again, far more so than if Romney went elsewhere for a Veep. It might be better to let sleeping yellow dogs lie.
4. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, PA — On the downside, several recent reports indicate that the Romney team doesn’t think Pennsylvania is a very realistic target (although a new poll out Tuesday puts Romney within six points there). Plus, Toomey’s earlier leadership of the Club for Growth, supporting GOP challengers against moderate incumbents, might still engender raw feelings from establishmentarian activists and might make it easier for the media to hang its favorite label of “extremist” on him.
Those are not very significant drawbacks. On the highly significant upside, Toomey would energize conservative activists of almost all sub-groups; he has proved to be a very effective campaigner; and he has proposed a solidly conservative balanced budget without touching entitlements in any way that could be used as a scare tactic against the ticket.
If Romney chose Toomey, he could use him in the campaign in a unique way. Some 90 percent of Toomey’s mission could be to just campaign for two straight months as if it were another statewide Pennsylvania race. Without even spending a lot of resources for media buys, Toomey could crisscross his home state, campaigning in smallish hamlets that usually are not visited by presidential campaigns, driving up conservative turnout throughout the Keystone Commonwealth. (He might also do well to make brief cross-border excursions into eastern Ohio, and into West Virginia and northwestern Virginia and perhaps into New Jersey.)
Who knows: It might just work in stealing Pennsylvania for the GOP — and even if it didn’t, it would drive the Obama team to distraction; force the Obamites to expend far greater resources in Pennsylvania than otherwise necessary (thus possibly leaving other states more exposed without requiring anywhere near the same level of resource commitment from the Romney camp); and provide encouragement to Republican activists nationwide just by appearing to put Pennsylvania into play. Not bad; not bad at all.
NOTE: In recent weeks, I’ve written individual columns profiling the final three choices. See the links on their last names, below.
3. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, PA — It is astonishing that Santorum isn’t somewhere near the top of every Veep list. As has been the case during his whole career, conventional wisdom badly underestimates his appeal. Never mind the millions of votes he won this winter. Never mind the numerous state primaries and caucuses he won despite being woefully underfunded and discounted. It’s crazy. Every single polling cross-tab I’ve seen has shown that while Mitt Romney does enjoy majority or plurality support among Evangelicals and blue-collar workers, the support is shallow and tepid — and those are the very constituencies to whom Santorum appeals the most. Romney desperately needs their energy. He also should understand that a lot of Santorum voters will feel ignored, marginalized, indeed insulted, if their candidate isn’t at least publicly listed among the final three choices even after effectively having been Romney’s runner-up.
It also should help that Santorum has been publicly vetted. There is nothing negative about Santorum that hasn’t already come out. People already have factored in his supposed deficiencies. There aren’t any jokers remaining in the deck. And even the people who don’t like him give him credit for being sincere and honorable — factors that severely mitigate the chance of many people voting against a ticket based merely on distaste for the bottom half of the ticket.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online