Romney’s Road to the White House Next Turns to his VP Choice

I have not written a lot lately about the Presidential election, but I hope to make the time over the coming months to change that. I put little blurbs up here and there on Facebook, but I want to chime in from time to time with some commentary on what I am absolutely certain is the most important election of my lifetime (so far). [NOTE: Those who say “you people always say that” are missing the point either on purpose or accidentally; I think the latter is worse]. A lot could be said about the state of this election since Romney wrapped up the nomination (for the Ron Paul fans still sure that their man will win, I gently nod my head, pat their shoulder, and say, “yes, yes, sweet child; now, now, rest your eyes; night night”). The challenges of the President’s strategy to attack Romney on Bain Capital warranted a blog, but what could I possibly say that countless others didn’t already say? It is weak sauce, and I stand with Democrats everywhere in rejecting it (including the best Democratic President since John Kennedy) … The Wisconsin results are a big deal too, but I have frankly avoided blogging on that so far because I am afraid of jinxing what I think it means. There is a long way to go in this race, but of this I am confident: Obama would not win Wisconsin if the election were tomorrow, and if he does not win Wisconsin, he can not win re-election. So what will the next narrative in this Presidential election be? I suspect that unless the Washington Post uncovers another huge scoop about Mitt Romney taking his friend’s Hostess snack in recess 53 years ago, that we basically will next turn our eyes to the VP selection that Romney will make some time between now and mid-August. A few thoughts on the field are in order …

(1) Karl Rove told me that we are wrong if we under-estimate Romney’s seriousness about wanting a running mate who Romney himself believes is genuinely and really ready to be President, right away. I am sure that political and electoral considerations have to be factored in, but I take this at Rove’s (and Romney’s) word: I do not think he is going to go the hail mary route that McCain did with Palin … And I also believe this likely means Marco Rubio will not be selected. First of all, I adore Marco Rubio. Second of all, I would be willing to bet substantial money that Marco Rubio will be the President of the United States some day. I am dead serious. But I do not believe Rubio would bring a big bloc of Hispanic voters, and I think Romney can win Florida without him. I could be wrong here, but I do not see Rubio getting the nod.

(2) I am one of the many conservatives who would be perfectly fine with a Chris Christie selection. It is not without risk, though. On one hand, his hard-edged, fesity, gutsy, honest approach is extremely popular right now. He would serve as a bad cop if the campaign wants to use Romney as more of a good cop (a perfectly legitimate strategy). But Christie has never faced a national antagonism before, and his home state of New Jersey is likely staying blue regardless (though I have serious contacts in the state who SWEAR New Jersey is more toss-up than people realize). I have to think Christie is somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds right now, and while people may think this has nothing to do with anything, it does … It is still a television era, and there are pockets of the country who vote on aesthetics – period. Christie is going to be a big part of this campaign, but I just think there are compelling pros AND cons when it comes to Christie.

(3) Rob Portman is the name people love to throw out there as the “default” option. The narrative goes like this: If Romney wants a safe pick, a vetted candidate with no real drama, a boring white guy like him, Portman is the man. He is a gifted statesman and would make a fine VP. But there are two reasons why I just don’t believe it will happen: (1) Romney doesn’t want to have to deal with the nuisance of the “George Bush repeat” argument, no matter how invalid it is (Portman was on Bush’s budget team); and, (2) There isn’t a lot of reason to believe that Portman delivers Ohio to Romney, and if you are going to go with a guy from Ohio, you may as well win Ohio (and with it The White House). If he does go this direction, expect a few loud conservatives on Twitter to express disappointment, but also expect it to mean that Romney’s people have determined that they already believe they are on the path to victory.

(4) No one is talking about this guy, and I have been very critical of him in the past, but part of me believes that Mike Huckabee is on Romney’s list. He probably would have been a more serious consideration a couple months ago when there was greater concern about Romney’s ability to get evangelicals behind him, but at this point I think it is safe to say that any evangelicals who are willing to see Obama get re-elected are, um, theologically flawed. I also think that Obama has done a good job getting evangelicals to coalesce behind Romney, and seems determined to really push that all the way through. But Huckabee may benefit Romney beyond that social conservative voter: He is the anti-Gordon Gekko in a lot of ways, popular with blue collar white voters, and friendly to the core. I think he would still concern a lot of the Club-for-Growth economic conservatives (of which I am a proud and passionate member), so it is hardly a risk-free choice. But he has name recognition, is likeable, and he would help with certain demographics that Romney struggles with.

(5) Anyone who thinks Romney is going to pick the pro-choice Sandoval out of Nevada is insane. Sandoval seems to be doing a great job in Nevada, but Romney wants to win, and if he picks a pro-choice VP, he will lose. How is that for detailed, thoughtful analysis?

(6) Paul Ryan is a stud, and I believe he will hold higher office than he currently does some day. But I think Romney invites more trouble by going this direction than he wants, and he already has done the part of fully and completely backing Ryan’s brilliant approach to solving our budget and entitlement mess. This would be a surprise pick if it were to happen …

(7) Last but not least, I am increasingly interested in the idea of a Bobby Jindal selection. The man is utterly impressive in his articulation of the conservative message; he has been an outstanding executive leader as Governor of Louisiana; he is wildly popular; he is not an old white guy; and he does not carry a lot of baggage or surprises (he has been vetted every which way imaginable). Jindal has a lot of upside, and very little downside (that I can see), BUT there may be hesitation because he does not carry a lot of electoral shift benefit (Romney will win Louisiana and Mississippi with his eyes closed).

So who do I think it SHOULD be? Any of these names would be fine with me (with the exception of Sandoval, simply because Romney would lose, and lose big, if he went that route). I mean it – everyone of these other people would be a fine, fine choice. I like Jindal. When I handicap all the various factors that have to be considered, Jindal makes the most sense to me. Who do I think it WILL be?

Bobby Jindal. I just have a feeling.

P.S. – I do not have any females on this list, and that is not because I am a sexist or a member of the GOP war on women. I like Nikki Haley and I like Kelly Ayotte, but I just do not believe Romney is going to pick either of them. Ayotte is more possible than Haley, but I believe this is not the year that a Republican will try to “break the glass ceiling” with a token, pandering selection. Romney is not going to do anything that even looks like a Palin-type selection, so I just left some of the very gifted female considerations off of my list.