In the next few weeks, Republican candidate Mitt Romney will be making the first public executive decision as a presidential candidate with the VP selection. Saying that this is critical is a bit of an understatement.
Historically, the VP has been selected to foster party unity (Bush 1980), please a certain constituency (Johnson 1960), shake up the race (Palin 2008), adding experience where a candidate is lacking (Biden 2008), or regional appeal (Edwards 2004).
Of course the VP should be someone the president is comfortable with (depending on how involved in the administration the VP will ultimately be), be free of major scandals/gaffes/background issues (note that Thomas Eagleton was dropped from McGovern's ticket in 1972 for a prior history of psychiatric issues), and not alienate any key group that the candidate hopes to appeal to.
This year Romney can go with several individuals all with assets and liabilities. In no particular order...
Kelly Ayotte - Senator from NH:
Pros: Female, loyal Romney supporter, tea party conservative, could help in NH
Cons: Limited national experience, uncomfortable speaker, may remind people of Palin
Marco Rubio - Senator from Florida
Pros: Hispanic, tea party favorite, could help in FL, good personal story
Cons: Potential ethics issues, limited national experience, could overshadow Romney
Rob Portman - Senator from Ohio
Pros: Very experienced, could help in OH, Foreign Policy credentials, safe pick
Cons: As boring as Romney, served in the Bush Administration
Chris Christie - Governor of New Jersey
Pros: Tea Party favorite, passionate, appeal to independents
Cons: Would definitely overshadow Romney, very gaffe-prone, won't help in NJ
Bobby Jindal - Governor of Louisiana
Pros: Indian-American, tea party favorite, policy wonk, good personal story
Cons: Boring speaking style, endorsed Rick Perry in primaries, allegedly involved in an exorcism when in college
Tim Pawlenty - Former Governor of Minnesota
Pros: Policy wonk, gets along with Romney, "Minnesota-nice", safe pick
Cons: Boring speaking style, criticized Romney when running last year, ran a terrible presidential campaign
Paul Ryan - Representative from Wisconsin
Pros: Policy wonk, may help in WI, budget expertise
Cons: Lightening rod for Democrats over budget proposals, not well known
Bob McDonnell - Governor of Virginia
Pros: Tea party favorite, could help bring in VA
Cons: Limited national experience,very conservative on social issues
Likelihood: Low to Medium
Long-shots: ...No, it won't be Condi Rice!
Nicki Haley - Governor of South Carolina
Susan Martinez - Governor of New Mexico
John Thune - Former Senator from South Dakota
Very long-shot: Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
Decision Points for Romney:
- Does he stay safe but boring (Portman, Pawlenty) or go high risk/high reward? (Christie)
- Does he need to please the tea party wing of the GOP? (Rubio, Ayotte, Ryan)
- Need to appeal to specific voting groups? (Rubio, Ayotte, Jindal)
Professor Brad's prediction (drum roll please!)
I think he goes with Bobby Jindal for the following reasons:
- He is experienced as a Governor and Congressman
- Rhodes Scholar background, has some academic chops
- Limited negatives compared to other contenders
- Generally viewed as a successful governor won't overshadow Romney, but has appeal as an Indian-American Catholic
- Will help solidify movement conservatives who are concerned about Romney being too moderate
Runner-ups: Portman (safe pick) Pawlenty (safe pick)
All this being said, very few people foresaw Sarah Palin in 2008 or Dan Quayle in 1988. We all will know in the next few weeks.