In picking a vice-presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election, will have to look for a variety of factors: someone highly competent but not dull, lively but not unpredictable, “in touch” but not inexperienced.
As the Romney campaign looks to the fall, many names have been suggested, some recognizable, some unfamiliar. The two considered most likely as of now are Marco Rubio, the freshman senator from Florida, and Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey.
Many commentators are pushing for a woman or a minority candidate to round out the ticket to counter Romney's perceived elitism and alienation. However, some are also skeptical, worrying that picking a candidate just because of his or her demographics would lead to the same problems the McCain campaign faced after its selection of Sarah Palin for vice president in 2008. Palin — chosen at least partly for her freshness, youth, and gender — proved a disastrous choice.
That is why the Romney campaign will avoid candidates like Nikki Haley, the Indian-American governor of South Carolina who is the youngest governor in the country and has been in office for only a year (Haley herself has declared that she will not give up her current post).
Palin herself, joined by Herman Cain, has called for Romney to pick Col. Allen West of Florida, an African-American soldier who served for more than 20 years, including in Iraq, but who is now only in his first term as a congressman.
As the past few elections have shown, the VP's home state does not have anything to do with victory. From Al Gore (from Tennessee) to Dick Cheney (Wyoming) to Joe Biden (Delaware), nominees are no longer being chosen on the basis of where they come from. This means Romney will not be forced to pick somebody bland or uncharismatic — like Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio.
When it comes to economics, Romney does not need any help — fiscal conservatives are not likely to vote for Obama over Romney, so there's no need to court the Tea Party vote. But based on Romney's history, he needs someone with stability and, preferably, strong foreign policy to balance the ticket. This rules out Paul Ryan, a new favorite of the GOP, whose budget — the “Ryan Plan” — will be a source of contention in the general election. Ryan, who has served in the House for 14 years, is only known for his economic policy.
And because Romney has already been heavily criticized for “flip-flopping,” he needs someone whose views have remained fairly constant and in public view for years, making Chris Christie, the ex-governor of New Jersey, a strong possible choice. Christie takes a similar hard-line conservative economic view to Romney, while his position as a social moderate, as well as his home state being New Jersey, may make him seem less radical to centrists and swing voters. Although he can sometimes be unpredictable, he is never boring and has a ready sense of humor — a welcome touch which could counter Romney's awkwardness.
The last and currently most popular possibility is Marco Rubio, in his first term as a senator from Florida. Well-liked by both the Republican establishment as well as his large base in Florida, the young Cuban-American is less conservative than Romney on immigration, which may well turn out to be a good thing in garnering the substantial Hispanic vote. Rubio, however, does have a few personal drawbacks — his relative inexperience (although Rubio is intelligent and articulate) and the few years he spent as a Mormon in his childhood: Romney's religion has previously been an issue for some evangelicals.
Of course, the campaign has until August to decide. Although the decision is tough to call in April, one thing is certain: Sarah Palin will not be making an appearance on anyone's ticket this November.