Republican Veterans Want to Avoid Repeat of Palin Fiasco
If conservatives get their way, they will try to force Mitt Romney to pick Senator Marco Rubio of Florida as his vice presidential running mate. Two recent opinion polls of conservative groups sponsored by the Washington Times newspaper found growing support for Rubio to join Romney on the Republican Party ticket, despite betting from more senior Republicans that Romney will go with a more established, safer choice like Ohio Senator Rob Portman.
A poll of those attending the Conservative Leadership Conference in Las Vegas and another survey of activists at the Conservative Political Action Committee in Chicago both found the most support for adding Rubio to the Republican ticket. Twenty-eight percent of those meeting in Las Vegas mentioned Rubio as their top choice, while 30 percent of those at the CPAC event in Chicago chose Rubio.
Others who did well in the two polls were New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. But some other notable Republicans did not fare as well, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, fresh of his recall victory last week, and Senator Portman Rob Portman of Ohio. Portman mustered only 2 percent of the vote in the Chicago poll despite the fact he is one of the contenders most often mentioned by Republican insiders as their pick to be on the ticket with Romney.
Rubio’s charisma and Cuban-American roots excite a lot Republicans looking for a new, younger option who could appeal to Hispanic voters, a growing constituency that at the moment overwhelmingly supports President Obama. Rubio was also elected with Tea Party support in Florida and his selection could further energize an important voting bloc within the Republican Party for November.
But detractors question whether Rubio has enough government experience. They argue that Romney needs to choose a more seasoned politician as vice president, especially in the wake of John McCain’s controversial decision four years ago to pick the untested governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.
Conservative activists love Rubio and insist he would be a much more exciting choice than contenders like Portman, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell or former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who some in the Romney campaign see as a comfortable fit in the number two slot. Some Republicans pushing for Rubio deride the safer picks as “boring white guys.” They argue that Romney should do something more to shake up the race before the Republican National Convention gets underway the last week in August in Tampa, Florida.
Beyond the usual vice presidential suspects, there are lesser known Republicans Romney could choose from. They include Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. The problem with many of the lesser-knowns is that they will invite comparison to McCain’s choice of Palin four years ago — and that may be the number one thing the Romney folks want to avoid at this point.
I think it’s still more likely than not that Romney will choose the safe path, the one that abides by that old maxim of picking a running mate that says, “First, do no harm.” But it’s also likely that many names will get mentioned either directly or indirectly by the Romney campaign between now and when the choice is revealed to maximize the exposure of some of the other contenders who will be campaigning on Romney’s behalf in the fall campaign.
No harm in mentioning a lot of names and getting some up and coming Republicans national exposure.
Some of the better known names that have been bandied about might not be a good fit because they might overshadow Romney. That applies to the occasionally bombastic New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie.
Another prominent Republican, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, has taken himself out of the running, though given the continuing negative hangover from his brother’s administration — among even some Republicans — that may not be a big issue.
Also, Bush has further annoyed some of his Republican colleagues lately, telling an audience in New York that even former President Ronald Reagan would struggle in today’s party with what he called “an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.”
What seems to be clear at this point is the interest in joining Mitt Romney on the ticket as the number two Republican is growing, primarily because more and more party members now believe Romney can beat President Obama in November. In that context, being Romney’s running mate would be a worthwhile.
Conservatives and mainstream Republican stalwarts alike are beginning to express confidence about Romney’s chances this year. That confidence is reflected in Romney’s fundraising prowess, and in the increased focus on several so-called battleground states this year, states that Mr. Obama won handily four years ago.
Romney’s upcoming bus tour will begin in New Hampshire and then move through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan, all states the President Obama won in 2008 and states that will likely determine the winner of this year’s contest.
The Romney camp is looking to make inroads with independent voters in those states who may be on the cusp of abandoning Mr. Obama because they are frustrated with the state of the economy.