“I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers”- Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire
Vice Presidents don’t win elections. Dan Quayle is proof of this. Vice Presidents don’t lose elections, either. Dick Cheney and Joe Biden are proof enough (I’m hoping the latter will prove me wrong this fall). So why is there such intrigue over the Vice Presidential selection process? I don’t have the slightest clue. Perhaps after talking for more than a year about prospective Presidential nominees the public needs more individuals to scrutinize.
At the dawn of the Republic the Vice Presidency was nothing more than a consolation prize for the runner-up in the Presidential race. Thomas Jefferson served under his political rival, John Adams, from 1796-1800. The office has since evolved, making the Vice President the de-facto attack dog for the administration. Many have played this role very effectively while others have not.
One thing that is occasionally lost on people is that many Presidents have come by way of the Vice Presidency: a total of 14 did a stint as VP before becoming Commander-in-Chief. Contrary to popular belief, the office does serve a purpose, despite the general notion that its occupants are nothing more than yes-men (even though, except for maybe Dick Cheney, that’s what they are). Great Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman matriculated from Vice President to the Presidency. However, the country also got stuck with Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon BACK to BACK!
Now that Mitt Romney is assured the Republican presidential nomination, the prognosticators have already begun assessing potential VP candidates. Nowadays there’s a fairly low threshold when choosing a Vice Presidential nominee. The last VP to bring real political and electoral clout to a Presidential ticket was LBJ, who was only to be ostracized by the Kennedy inner-circle once in the White House. Today the criterion seems to be DON’T EMBARRASS ME AND STICK TO THE SCRIPT. This formula has been recycled through the years to great effect. Don’t believe me? See Walter Mondale.
Romney has many viable options when it comes to selecting his running mate. Each has his (or her) strengths and weaknesses, respectively. Consider the potential choices*:
- Marco Rubio – He has been mentioned as a potential Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominee since the day he was sworn in as a US Senator. A darling of the Tea Party, the gentleman from Florida puts the state in play and has appeal to Latino voters, an important voting group that Republicans have had trouble courting as of late.
-Rob Portman – Seems to become more popular as a VP choice as time goes on. A former congressman, trade representative, Director of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), and current US Senator, Portman boasts an impressive resume. He gives the ticket a shot at Ohio, but his close ties to the Bush administration may give some pause.
-Paul Ryan – Like Portman, he has seen his name increasingly linked to the VP slot as the primary season winds down. Only 42, Ryan would bring real conservative and economic credentials to the campaign. While he is extremely knowledgeable and polished on policy issues, his latest budget is highly polarizing and could potentially overshadow Romney’s candidacy.
-Chris Christie – Once thought to be the best Presidential candidate Republicans could offer against Obama, Christie forewent a presidential run, endorsed Romney early, and has since become one of his most effective surrogates. He has only been governor for two years and lacks foreign policy credentials. If Romney loses, Christie and Rubio will battle it out for the 2016 nomination.
- Bob McDonnell- Part of the Republican comeback that began with his and Christie’s elections in November of 2009. Appeals to evangelical conservatives with his positions on social issues and to independents with his jobs message. Before 2008, the last time Virginia went blue in a presidential election was 1964. Republicans need to win it back if they are to have any shot at winning back the White House.
-Susana Martinez – One of the more popular names to be considered because of her dual appeal to women and Hispanic voters. She was a prosecutor before assuming the New Mexico governorship and is currently attempting to reform the mess that Bill Richardson bequeathed her. Might be too soon to put her on the national stage.
-John Thune – Straight out of central casting. Now in his second term as a US Senator, Thune has climbed the Senate ranks and is now the Republican Conference Chair. Like many on this list, he decided against a run at the Oval Office and endorsed Romney early. He is much in the mold of previous VP nominees, thus making him perhaps too safe of a choice.
-Mitch Daniels – The Conservative establishment practically got on its knees to get the former governor of Indiana to run. Like all the other “dream” candidates, he declined. His tenure as governor was marked by tax cuts, school vouchers, and sticking it to Organized Labor by making Indiana a right to work state. Formerly a protégé of Senate titan Richard Lugar, Daniels previously served as George W. Bush’s OMB director.
-Sarah Palin- Just kidding!
It was John McCain who perhaps gave us the best examples of what NOT (to do when considering whom to choose for VP: Don’t consider a former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee (Joe Liebermann). Don’t consider a pro-choice governor (Tom Ridge). And don’t, whatever you do,) go to Alaska to find yourself a potential VP. While Romney’s choices in themselves avoid many of the problems that plagued McCain in 2008, the presumptive nominee can’t take the task of choosing a Vice President lightly, either.
*Apologies to anyone who I have offended by leaving off their favorite congressman, governor, senator, city-councilperson, alderman, dog walker, etc. from the VEEP list
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