Ann Romney has announced that her husband, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, is looking at a woman for his VP running mate.
"[We've] been looking at that and I love that option as well," Ann Romney told CBS News’ Jan Crawford. They want "someone that obviously can do the job but will be able to carry through with some of the other responsibilities."
But Mitt Romney is not actually considering women — he only wants to repair a poor publicity campaign. Facing the perception that he is the candidate for “old, straight, white men,” the former governor is trying to win back minority groups. By openly keeping minority candidates in the running, Romney can hold onto these key voters for a while longer.
The Romney team has said it would avoid Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign disasters — alluding to 2008 VP pick Sarah Palin and her ineptitude. While sensible to avoid the senseless Palin, the strategy inadvertently seemed to shut out all women; a campaign official said his ideal pick would be an “incredibly boring white guy.” There are few strong female candidates that Romney can choose from — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a popular Hispanic from a swing-state, would be a strong pick, but does not want the VP position, as she wants to take care of her family now; Sen. Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire is popular but has only two years of experience. Catering to an aging, shrinking population is not only bad politics, but also reflects Romney’s disconnect with the diversifying face of America.
Romney suffered earlier from a rumor that he was not considering Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a charismatic Cuban-American, for the VP pick. Rubio provides four major strengths in this year’s election — greater likelihood of winning a swing-state, energy, a well-articulated political stances, and his Latino heritage. For an election that depends on the Hispanic vote, the Rubio rumor collided with Obama’s immigration reform policy to make Hispanics think twice about the Republican candidate. Romney insisted Rubio was being “thoroughly vetted,” but he could have been backtracking in the face of criticism; in any case, the momentary perception of the rumor as truth reinforced Romney’s image as the candidate for an old, white population.
Now Romney needs to win over women. The media has blown up GOP attacks on women, from anti-contraception bills to Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” comment. Meanwhile, Romney has done little to distance himself from the aggressively anti-women image of the party — possibly to win support from social conservatives. Women are important for the election, too, as they tend to vote Democrat and have been increasing in voter turnout. By throwing the bone that Romney is considering a female VP, Ann Romney is trying to restore faith in Romney for women.
Obama has outmaneuvered Romney with these voters so far. By openly supporting gay marriage, reproductive rights, and immigration reform, Obama has taken bold stances on social issues. Romney, on the other hand, has yet to respond coherently to these symbolic moves, making him appear more weak in leadership and unprincipled.
Romney can say he’s “considering” anyone — women, Hispanics, African Americans, or any other minority representative — to win these groups temporarily. But it’s whom he chooses in the end that will matter. For now, these statements seem transparently like fluff.