January 13, 2012 Who should Mitt pick for VP?
For some reason, a lot of speculation has focused on people who have held office for only a year or two: people like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, etc.
I think all of these options are, to put it charitably, high-risk. If there is one thing we should have learned from the past election or two, it is that people who have held major public office for only a couple of years simply do not belong on a national ticket; the risk of embarrassing gaffes, etc. is just too high.
So how should a Presidential candidate choose among the dozens of possible vice-Presidents? It seems to me that a VP candidate is unlikely to add a significant number of votes to the ticket (indeed, my last post suggests that even within his/her home state a VP candidate does not have much clout). Instead, the Presidential candidate’s goal should be to do as little harm as possible. This means that the ideal VP candidate should be someone who is likely to be gaffe-proof, a veteran of national politics, someone who conveys gravitas. In short, someone like Dick Cheney in 2000.
But what Republican greybeards are left after the past few elections? Here are a few bones to pick on:
*Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. To the extent a VP from a large state does add votes (which I very much doubt) Ohio is definitely a state you want on your side. And even though Portman has only been a senator since 2010, he was Congressman, then US Trade Representative, then OMB Director. From what I know of him, he seems to be the sort of person who is pretty well respected and will not embarrass the ticket.
*Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Governor for two terms, Secretary of Education, then Senat0r- he’s done it all.
*Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana- another Capitol Hill veteran, though one with a more conservative reputation than Alexander; to a greater extent than the candidates I have suggested, Coats might balance the ticket ideologically. (And if it matters, Indiana is a state that went for Obama in 2008, so it may be worth shoring up).
*Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana- 8 years as a pretty popular governor, and before that Bush OMB director. A year or so ago there was lots of talk about Daniels running for President, so he seems pretty well respected.
*Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. Thune is more of a hard-shell conservative than some of the other candidates listed, but has served in the Senate for 8 years and knows how to win elections (having beaten Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle in 2004).
What about the other candidates for President (Santorum, Paul, etc.)? The first duty of a vice-presidential candidate is not to lose votes. With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman,* all of them strike me as loose cannons to some extent, people who might make core Republican voters more enthusiastic but have said (and will probablycontinue to say) things that will lose votes for the Republican ticket.
*And Tim Pawlenty, who of course is no longer a candidate. You could do worse than Pawlenty. On the other hand, he barely got reelected as governor of Minnesota, which is hardly a strong credential compared to the candidates listed above.