Friday, July 6, 2012

Has Romney Picked a VEEP?

There is speculation that Romney's VP list is down to a "final four:"

  1. Tim Pawlenty (former Min. Governor)
  2. Rob Portman (Ohio Senator)
  3. Paul Ryan (Wisconson Rep)
  4. Bobby Jindal (Louisiana Gov)
The article (RCP) considers Marco Rubio and Virgina Gov. Bob McDonnell potentials as well. For the spread, here's how well respected analyst Larry Sabato sees these guys:
CandidateKey AdvantagesKey Disadvantages
Rob Portman
Senator, OH
•Reinforces economic message
•Former OMB director
•From key swing state
•Safest of the safe picks
•Bush connection
•Ticket = white bread sandwich
•Held responsible for budget problems
 Tim Pawlenty
Fmr. Governor, MN
•Gov. experience
White bread sandwich

•Probably can’t carry home state
•Bombed as POTUS candidate
Bobby Jindal
Governor, LA
•Sterling gubernatorial resume
•Diversity for GOP ticket
•State/Fed. experience
•Not nationally vetted
•Unremarkable SOTU response
•LA not competitive
Paul Ryan
Rep., WI
•Young & energetic
•Fiscal focus
•Swing state
•House member — has never even run statewide
•Has touched 3rd rail of politics too many times
The first two of these, Portman and Pawlenty are "safe"--although these two are also wealthy and pose potential vetting challenges on that front (they are, however, otherwise vetted for scandal, etc.). The last two are "exciting" to a degree and popular with the base. Rubio, listed as a darkhorse is probably the most exciting ...

It's also worth noting that often these kinds of analysis are wrong (see Palin). At this stage of the game everything is a head-fake.

What Do I Think?
The Romney campaign seems to be playing a "prevent defense" (keep the opponent from running up the score, play conservatively)--which is an odd thing to do when you're presently behind--but he seems to be of the opinion (and today's uninspiring job numbers may bare him out) that the economic decline will do his work for him.

As such, I would expect a Portman / Pawlenty pick based on his strategy. The analogy in chess would be castling:  a special move that places the all-important king in a defensive position (with the powerful "rook" piece set to attack and defend--much like the attack-dog role of the VP). Castling is a great move to do when you are ahead and looking to force an opponent into what you hope will be an over-extended attack.

However ...
In chess, while black goes second, ceding the "initiative," it gives that side the option of "responding." The Democratic convention happens in September. The Republican convention happens in late August. Team Obama will have the option of responding to any pick the Republicans make. They have one very clear move that would over-shadow a Portman / Pawlenty pick: Run Hillary as the VP.

There are three reasons for this. The first is that swing-voters this year are white, blue-collar voters with some basic democratic tendencies who feel at best uneasy about Obama. These were exactly the kind of voters Hillary connected with in 2008. Her presence on the ticket could well sway them more than Joe Biden who does not seem to excite anyone.

The second is that no matter who wins in 2012 one thing is certain: Joe Biden will not be running for president in 2016. If Hillary serves as VP and is anywhere near as successful as her Secretary of State run, she will be positioned for another 4-8 years of Democratic dominance. For the Democrats to leave that kind of money "on the table" seems unlikely.

The third is that the currency of Team Obama is (a) mobilizing minorities (b) targeting women, and (c) focused strongly on getting out the vote--ensuring that these demographics go to the polls on election day. That requires excitement. Nominating Hillary would, I'm sure, generate a large portion of that excitement as she would be a historic candidate (first woman VP, likely first woman president).

As such, Team Romney has to be figuring that if they go Pawlenty, what they pick up in security they could lose in initiative.

Now, it does seem unlikely that Team Obama will jettison Biden--the bumper-stickers are all printed and stuff. There are, allegedly, many reasons not to want Hillary as a VP (so they say)--but if I were the Romney campaign, I'd be thinking my game-plan had better be to go with excitement rather than safety. If the economy isn't in the toilet he'll want someone out there who will make sure the base gets to the polls--and brings some hangers on as well.

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