May 24, 2012
Romney's Veep PickBy J. Robert Smith
Don't expect Mitt Romney to pull a John McCain. A safe bet is that there will be no Sarah Palin-like surprise when Romney announces his running mate. The reason is that Mitt Romney doesn't need a stunner to grab voters' attention or swing the momentum from Barack Obama. President Obama's charisma counts for squat this year. In big ways and small, the 2012 election isn't the 2008 version. Romney's veep pick will reflect that critical difference.
The Daily Beast ran an article in early April stating that the "[c]onventional wisdom says Romney will need a running mate who's not another boring white guy." As is so often the case, the CW is wrong. It's wrong because the media assumes that voters will be as taken with Mr. Obama's smile and style as they were four years ago. Hence, Romney will seek some pizzazz in his veep selection to compensate.
Charisma-obsessed journalists and commentators can't accept that this year's electorate seems willing to look past the sizzle to the steak. A "boring white guy" like Mitt Romney is looking like a better cut of steak to voters than the much-chewed-on Mr. Obama.
Twenty-twelve's voters don't desire a glitzy, glamorous Moses to lead them to a Promised Land. The indications are that voters want someone to clean up Mr. Obama's mess. A million-dollar smile and nice-fitting designer threads aren't part of this year's job qualifications. The same goes for Romney's running mate. Expect Romney to pick a veep who has consistently exhibited high competence in his career and who largely mirrors Romney's personality and style. That pick could well be a boring white guy or gal.
Romney isn't hemmed in like McCain was in choosing a running mate. In 2008, the Arizona senator was an inheritor of the Bush record and Bush fatigue. The economy had just tanked on Mr. Bush's watch in December 2007. Voters wanted a respite from the War on Terror and the economy righted. Mr. Obama's then-youthful buoyancy and airy sound bite-riddled stump speeches seemed the tonic for what ailed America.
These days, youthful buoyancy, airy sound bites, and a dime ain't gonna buy you a cup of coffee. Besides, Mr. Obama's graying pate means that even he, too, alas, ages. And the president's airy sound bites sound shopworn -- that is, when the president isn't indulging his taste for vituperation, through his class warfare rhetoric and wedge polemics.
Four years later, the economy isn't in crisis, but it is terribly anemic. Mr. Obama's snake-oil concoction of stimuli, bailouts, and historic debt hasn't improved the economy. The president's obsession with passing a government-run health care scheme had Americans scratching their heads, wondering why so much presidential energy and executive-level resources were being funneled into another big-government scheme when it was, is, and continues to be the economy, stupid.
Voters don't want to be wowed in 2012; they want to be reassured that the next president will roll up his sleeves and get dirty restoring prosperity and cutting Uncle Sam's enormous credit card debt. Joel Osteen is plenty of inspiration on Sunday mornings.
The 65-year-old Romney has said on occasion that he wants a veep who can take over the presidency if -- God forbid -- something happens to him. This can be construed as boilerplate, the thing a presidential candidate says about a vice presidential pick (even about plagiarist and funnyman Joe Biden).
But Romney's a business exec, a button-down guy who has a responsibility to shareholders and investors, so to speak. Chances are, Romney means to have someone as veep along the lines of Dick Cheney, who can provide experienced backup and a seamless transition to the presidency, if the need arises.
That doesn't strike Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan from Romney's veep list. Both men are intelligent, capable, and politically astute. Rubio has an obvious appeal to Hispanics and would likely sew up Florida for Romney. Ryan, an upper-Midwesterner, could help move Wisconsin (his home state), neighboring Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa into the Romney column. Both Rubio and Ryan are button-down sorts, which should appeal to Romney.
But Rubio and Ryan are young and short on the sort of the executive experience that Romney may be seeking in a vice president. The nation is facing serious challenges. Seasoning and a strong track record heading enterprises of one type or another may be the ticket to run with Romney.
Chris Christie has been doing a pretty good job running New Jersey. But Christie is loud and confrontational. Would Christie serve as a lightning rod for Romney or a distraction? How well would the corporate, cool Romney cohabit with the streetwise, in-your-face Christie?
Among the other, more discussed possible running mates for Romney are Rob Portman, Bob McDonnell, and Mitch Daniels. According to Intrade, Senator Portman is a slight favorite right now. Each appears to better fit the Romney mold.
Portman, an Ohioan, has congressional and executive experience during his time in the Bush administration. Ohio is an important state to Romney's fortunes. Portman is low-key, which would seem to play well with Romney.
Bob McDonnell has had a largely successful term as Virginia governor, though his approval ratings have dipped some lately (likely due to voters in the heavily Democratic suburbs in Northern Virginia). McDonnell has all the executive qualities that Romney admires, and he is a solid conservative and a Roman Catholic. Virginia has been deemed a "purple" state, and a state Romney aims to win in November.
Mitch Daniels has done a solid job leading Indiana as governor. Daniels also has private-sector executive experience and business pragmatism, which may trump Daniels' conservatism at times (a quality not alien to Romney). For personal reasons, Daniels has indicated no desire to join Romney in a national campaign, and he probably won't.
There are other possible Romney veep choices, of course. Mike Huckabee, for one. But Huckabee has become something of a celeb via his Fox News show. Does Romney want to be upstaged?
Haley Barbour had two strong terms as Mississippi governor, but he also has a long record as a D.C. insider (meaning lobbyist). Does Romney want the baggage?
Senator Pat Toomey is smart and conservative, and he might give Romney a fighting chance in the Keystone State. South Carolinian Jim DeMint is a Tea Party favorite. Senator John Thune is conservative and not showy. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez are up-and-coming Hispanic conservatives, but they might be a little green yet.
Bottom line is that this year's presidential election is about the economy and the role and size of government. Mitt Romney is viewed favorably on both issues (a better economy and more responsible government). Romney is running competitively against Mr. Obama now, and he should stay competitive -- or better -- against the president throughout the election cycle.
Barring events or variables that tilt the election unexpectedly in Mr. Obama's favor, anticipate Romney going with a boring but very capable and experienced veep choice. Voters are very likely to approve.
FOLLOW US ON