Compensating for Coattails in 2012
Although Super Tuesday has come and gone, there is still a long haul before the choice of Republican nominee is finalized. And anecdotal evidence seems to show a surprisingly weak level of enthusiasm for any of the four remaining candidates. Current talk around the national water cooler seems to sum up the feelings of voters like this:
- Mitt Romney? Not really very conservative. The fact that he is seen as the grandfather of Obamacare is also held against him.
- Rick Santorum? OK, he seems conservative, but he's too focused on social issues.
- Newt Gingrich? Yes, he's brilliant, but he's also much too erratic. And sharing a couch with Nancy Pelosi while pitching global warming will haunt the man forever.
- Ron Paul? Many people like what he has to say about domestic matters, but he scares the hell out of many on foreign affairs.
For professional Republicans, or the Republican "establishment" if you prefer, none seems to exhibit that groundswell of enthusiasm which might result in a significant amount of "coattail" effect. That is, none of these candidates seems to have much of a chance of aiding other Republican candidates down-ticket -- particularly in the Senate, but also in many other races around the nation on November 6.
Yes, there is currently a definite "Anyone But Obama" feeling among those who are not L-P-Ds (Liberal-Progressive-Democrats). But just because ordinary voters are thinking "A-B-O," that doesn't mean that they are especially motivated to volunteer, work phone banks, drive voters to the polls, and go door-to-door, not to mention all the other efforts necessary to get their candidate elected.
So, even though it is has been traditional for presidential candidates to select their running mate, Republicans have already started looking at various potential vice-presidential candidates who would help shore up their ticket in November, regardless of the personal preferences of Mitt, Rick, Newt, and Ron.
There are the predictable choices, such as Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Allen West of Florida, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Occasionally there have been a few interesting, if unlikely, choices named as well, such as Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina.
Of these nine individuals, Rubio, West, Martinez, Jindal, and Haley all provide a non-white ethnicity factor to the ticket.
Of these nine, Martinez, Haley, and Brewer bring gender into the equation.
Of these nine, Daniels and Ryan have demonstrated actual, and extensive, expertise in budgeting for the federal government, expertise which has even been acknowledged by Democrats (well, maybe not Nancy Pelosi or Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, of course).
Of these nine, Christie is perhaps the most gifted public speaker, acknowledged even by Democrats in New Jersey as being able to communicate extraordinarily well with the man in the street.
OK, that covers the obvious strengths of each of these potential vice-presidential possibilities. What about weaknesses?
Governors Haley and Martinez, who both offer the one-two punch of gender plus ethnicity, are handicapped by both having been sworn in as governor only in 2011. Lack of experience will be a huge target for Democrats during the election. Keep in mind that L-P-Ds frequently suffer from selective memory failure. They will attack either Haley or Martinez for lack of experience, selectively forgetting that both ladies already have more, and more significant, executive experience than Barack Obama did when he was elected.
Governor Brewer, who was sworn in back in 2009, has executive experience, but the propaganda arm of the Democratic National Committee (as the mainstream media would be called if everyone was being honest) will crucify her for having the unimaginable temerity to have once pointed her finger at the president. Didn't she know that that finger could have been loaded? Or did she point it just because Obama was (and still is, for that matter) a black man?
Congressman West would have the same media gauntlet to navigate, although the attacks on him would undoubtedly be framed as "Yeah, he's black, but is he black enough? Is he a real African-American? I mean, after all, he's very (gasp) conservative! He can't really be African-American then, can he? He's really just some sort Republican 'Uncle Tom,' right?" Offsetting this, he would have the distinct advantage of debating Joe Biden, who has an absolute gift for putting his foot in his mouth when given the slightest opportunity.
Governor Jindal both has executive experience gained during a crisis and has shown a willingness to stand up to Barack Obama over the disjointed efforts of the federal government following the Gulf oil spill. The governor, as a descendant of parents from the Indian subcontinent, does provide that ethnicity factor, but the Indian-American population is not a significant voting bloc, and his particular ethnicity may not sway black and Latino voters.
That leaves us Ryan, Rubio, Christie, and Daniels.
All four men have declared that they are not interested in the vice presidency. They have each said this again and again and again.
In response to such assertions, one can only ask:
"Why do any of you think you have a right to put a nation of 350 million people at risk economically, at risk in terms of national security and at risk in terms of the individual liberty of every single citizen just because the timing isn't right for your career plans, or you don't want to put your families through the torment of a national campaign?
"Do each of you think that public service is something that is supposed to fit your convenience? Well, gee, perhaps you should debate that idea with any of the wounded veterans returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. Or even the surviving veterans of Vietnam. None of them had anything to say about having their career goals interrupted, not to mention the hell that their families suffered. None of your families will be wondering if someone is going to be knocking on their doors with a telegram from the Department of Defense informing them of your death or debilitating injury. So please leave your whining at the door, people."
Any one of the potential candidates has strengths and weaknesses, but if the weakness that eliminates them from contention is their own personal preference, then they are no better than the L-P-Ds who pander to special interests who have a hand out for government largess. As such, they do not deserve to be considered for the vice presidency. In fact, they should no longer be considered public servants, but just ordinary bureaucrats who are milking the system.
Unlike civil servants, though, they can be fired. Just ask Obama.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran, and an independent voter. Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com, or he can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.