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With Paul Ryan now officially a non-contender for the presidency and Marco Rubio rocking the house tonight at the Reagan Library, I thought we’d have a little fun with Republican running mates.
So here’s my list of 10 possibilities (alphabetically).
Please feel free to add, subtract . . .
. . . Or tell me why I’m just plain nuts:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Our first name is arguably the one least likely to be giving an acceptance speech on the third night of the Republican National Convention. Arguments for: Christie’s a blue-collar, Catholic, unapologetic political pugilist – i.e., the anti-Obama; his reform successes (budget, public pensions) are the opposite of Washington’s dithering. Arguments against: weak poll numbers suggest the governor might want to stick closer to home in ’12; he relishes the hand-to-hand combat in Trenton. Would he want to be the next Joe “I wrestle Mongolians” Biden (I love the idea of Biden spending quality time in Ulan Bator; reminds me of the old New Jersey “perfect together” tourism spot)?
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. She’s more of a possibility if non-southerner Mitt Romney is the nominee, not Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Argument for: Haley’s popular among the Tea Party set, who’ll need considerable convincing to fall in love with a Romney-led ticket – the choice offering a consolation prize of sorts for the skipping-over of Michele Bachman. Argument against: she’s already said the choice should be “somebody who can bring a lot of experience to the table . . . Let’s look at somebody that can do more.” Presumably, that’s not a first-term governor of a small state.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. First things first: Jindal faces re-election this October (against token opposition); an outcome less settled is an endorsement of his “good neighbor” to the immediate west, Gov. Perry. Argument for: earlier this month, at a Republican National Committee meeting in Tampa, Jindal gave a fire-breathing speech against the debt-ceiling compromise and talked up his job-growth record (RNC attendees even got a copy of his new book). Argument against: Jindal’s latest catchphrase – “it pays to be stubborn” – sure doesn’t sound like the words of a running mate who likes to obey orders.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Again, more of a Romney pick than a Perry pick (Perry figuring he already has a built-in advantage with Latino voters). Argument for: New Mexico has gone Democratic-Republican-Democratic in the last three presidential elections; Martinez, theoretically, would appeal to Hispanic voters in neighboring Arizona and Colorado and nearby Nevada. Arguments against: is she sufficiently conservative?; would Martinez, elected in November 2010, be willing to renege on a promise to lead her state “for four years”?
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The new chairman of the Republican Governors Association is the head of a commonwealth in which the two political parties are in a dead heat. Arguments for: the rare honest politician who says he’d be “very interested” if asked to join the 2012 ticket, McDonnell maybe gets that wish if he’s the difference in delivering Virginia’s 13 electoral votes (Obama took Virginia in 2008); how many governors can brag about a budget surplus? Argument against: McDonnell’s directness about wanting on the ticket – isn’t being coy the way the game’s played?
Oho Sen. Rob Portman – This is electoral-vote geography that works for both Romney and Perry, as Ohio once again becomes a presidential epicenter. Arguments for: Portman’s no stranger to high-stakes campaigns (he stood in as George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s debate opponents in 2000 and 2004); he knows his state inside-out, winning 82 of 88 counties and 15 of 18 congressional districts in his 18-point Senate win. Argument against: his previous stints in Washington as Bush 43’s U.S. trade representative and director of Office of Management and Budget would give Obama an opening to relive the previous regime.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. If it’s a frontrunner ye seek, here ‘tis. Rubio is young, dynamic and spoke at the Reagan Library at Nancy Reagan’s request (think she knows talent?). Argument for: Florida’s 29 electoral votes; Rubio receiving 57% of the Latino vote in his 2010 Senate victory (compared to 55% for Obama, in Florida, in 2008). Argument against: a cynic believes that something too good to be true is exactly that; until someone finds a way to knock a hole in the Rubio’s sails, he’ll remain the media’s odds-on favorite for the veep slot.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Like Rubio, Ryan has youth (he’s 41; Rubio’s 40), stage presence and a national cheering section, and he represents a state’s that likely in play next fall. Argument for: is there an easier sell than Perry/Romney as the nation’s CEO and Ryan as America’s CFO? Argument against: the moment Ryan accepts the offer, so begins yet another shameless “Mediscare” campaign to convince seniors that the GOP ticket will lay waste to federal entitlement spending.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Like Susana Martinez, a “New West” fresh face in a state the GOP covets. Argument for: the life of Brian seemingly is drama-free – he’s literally sober as a judge, having once served on the federal bench. Arguments against: the economy remains a mess (12.9% unemployment statewide and 14% in Las Vegas in July), which is why Romney chose Nevada as the site for the Sept. 6 rollout of his economic plan; for a governor who likes to project the image of newbie with a high ceiling, Sandoval had a bad 2011, alienating conservatives by raising taxes. And that’s probably a deal-killer.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Handsome and hip (he held a fundraiser at a Taylor Swift concert earlier this month), Thune’s been part of the “veepstakes” for the past six months, when he opted against a president run, only to open the door to the vice presidency. Argument for: Thune’s a small-town guy who’s friendly and charismatic, as would befit someone who rose to the number-four spot in the Senate leadership in a short period of time. Argument against: in 2008, he voted for the TARP bailout, still a sore subject. (By the way, can you name the last South Dakotan on a national ticket?)
So that’s ten names to ponder – not a top-ten list, mind you, just ten names that came to mind.
Some notable names are missing – there’s no Republican from the 2008 presidential cycle (Giuliani, Huckabee, Palin). Michele Bachmann (too controversial), Rick Santorum (probably couldn’t deliver Pennsylvania) and Tim Pawlenty (definitely shouldn’t have offended Romney in that Iowa debate) didn’t make my first cut.
Also missing: wild-card entries like a David Petraeus or a big name from the private sector.
But remember: the “veepstakes” is a guessing game. And a smart nominee will keep us guessing until the very day of the announcement.