Portman, Ryan, and Rubio! It sounds like a law firm but they are the three most buzzed-about names in the 2012 Veepstakes. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are the most recent names being added to the “top tier” by the media in their accounts of what is traditionally the most speculated on and incorrectly guessed question in every presidential campaign. Gov. Romney’s campaign has been deft at using the buzz around all the prospective VP candidates thus far deploying them at fundraisers, holding joint events, and utilizing their status as potential VP material to act as surrogates. You can find on the internet a picture of almost all of the mentioned candidates standing at some event right next to Romney.
The two other people who have received a fair amount of publicity as potential running mates are first term Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and first term Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Christie is the more well known of the two due to his status as a blunt talking YouTube sensation. His YouTube page has garnered over 5 million views, mostly due to the many clips from his town hall meetings, which often highlight a combative exchange or poignant moment. Having worked in New Hampshire politics and being a native of New Jersey I have watched Sen. Ayotte and Gov. Christie with great interest and admiration.
Who Are These Folks?
Ayotte is a first term senator from the swing state of New Hampshire. She was elected in 2010 with 60% of the vote. Prior to her election, she served in the appointed position of attorney general of New Hampshire from 2004 until she ran for office. She has prosecuted two high-profile murders and has argued before the Supreme Court. Since her election, she has distinguished herself on the Armed Services committee, where she was one of the first senators to raise concerns about large upcoming cuts to the Department of Defense’s budget (known as sequestration). Her husband is an Iraq War veteran and she is a mother of two. During her first election campaign, she was widely touted as a new face for the Republican Party and she has not disappointed since then.
Christie was a high profile U.S. attorney whose office garnered convictions or guilty pleas from over 130 public officials of both parties. He was elected in 2009 winning a hard-fought contest against former Senator and Governor John Corzine. The election was notable because of the negative tone and the fact the President Obama ended up campaigning for the loser, Gov. Corzine. Since his entry into office, Gov. Christie has earned plaudits for his tough guy/straight forward style and record of accomplishment. He has been able to work with an unfriendly legislature and strike compromises to reach significant policy goals.
I’d Choose Them Because ...
Ayotte is an attractive candidate for a campaign looking to break out of the typecast of his party, re-connect with the past-heralded soccer/security moms that Pres. George W. Bush relied on as a part of his electoral success. She is so new to Washington that she is not considered a part of or complicit in previous Washington melodrama. Her previous experience as an attorney general and her leadership on defense issues portray a public persona of an accomplished public official that would make any charge of pandering sound hollow.
Christie is a tough talking official with an action-oriented public persona. He would easily be able to do the often forgotten about number one job of the VP nominee – attack the incumbent in the White House. His record of accomplishment both versus and in working with the Democratic legislature of his state provides a great contrast to the dysfunction of Washington, DC. He has also shown a deft touch in easily breaking down complex issues into readily digestible point of view that people can understand.
Why Won't They Be Chosen?
In sports, politics, and war you make a game plan that you think will give you the best chance to win and you follow it making adjustments as needed.
Both of these candidates have many positives, but let’s say you are running a campaign based on two themes and one question repeated over and over again. The Romney game plan is simple and they plan to push two points and one message throughout election 2012: my opponent is in over his head; he cannot fix the economy; and are you better off today than four years ago? So can either Ayotte or Christie be the best choice to help Romney carry out that game plan? I’m sure they can but with a cautious and disciplined campaign team at the head of the Romney camp, it may not be so simple. They do invite examinations of their records, which will most likely prove not to be negative. However, I would be committing pundit malpractice to not toss in the obligatory mention of former Gov. Sarah Palin, whose dramatized selection in the the book Game Change casts a pall over the GOP election strategy. That pall makes cautious people want to avoid the mere mention of minor comparisons with her in this process. Therefore, while both Ayotte and Christie have accomplished resumes, the media may attempt to draw those connections, however flimsy they may actually be. One was endorsed by Palin (Ayotte); the other is a governor without a full term under his belt who has publicly mused if he has enough experience for the top job.
Christie would be a positive force on the trail. Ayotte would be helpful in projecting a dynamism the Republican Party could desperately use as it moves into the future with an electorate increasingly female and minority-heavy. If this was 2000, an open seat election with each party putting forth broad platforms of new ideas and looking to shape the electorate, he or she would be an obvious choice. However, the platform is simple here; an enterprising slogan writer could write something about the economy and the word stupid and really make a mark and with minor variations that is the strategy Romney has telegraphed thus far. Conventional wisdom says Romney will double down on experience and pick a known quantity, like Ohio Senator Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, with Rep. Ryan being the closest thing to a “surprise” pick. But who knows? Did anyone really believe Dick Cheney would be on the ticket 12 years ago?