Rick Santorum Will Not Be Mitt Romney's VP Nominee, Who Will?

With Rick Santorum's withdrawal from the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney is inching ever closer to the Republican nomination. He currently leads the GOP field with 658 delegates. With Obama’s approval ratings hovering around 50%, Romney must be strategic in his selection of a running mate. 

So who will be Romney’s VP? In this election, it seems almost certain that unlike Kerry’s selection of John Edwards in 2004, Romney will not pick another presidential candidate to be his wingman. He needs someone that he hasn’t bitterly criticized – at least publicly – but also someone that can satisfy the bases to which Santorum and Gingrich have appealed, someone who can be conservative while also sounding rational. The likelihood is that Romney will not find a total “game-changer” nominee because he needs to be the one to change the game.

A plausible candidate is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The larger-than-life politician has been extremely popular in the state for balancing the budget without raising taxes or cutting core services, along with his classic Republican “straight-talk.” National Republican figures begged Christie to throw his hat in the ring as a presidential candidate and he refused for weeks, vowing to finish out his term as governor without ruling out the possibility of a run in 2016. Christie could potentially bring in the women voters that Romney has thus far ostracized in his campaign, but the governor is another Northeasterner, which could be a regional liability for Romney considering that he is from New England and both represent moderate, left leaning states. 

The most interesting potential nominees would each satisfy minority coalitions, as the Republicans attempted to do with the selection of Palin in 2008. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is Hispanic, and former minority whip Eric Cantor of Virginia is Jewish. Both have been commended for their fiscal responsibility and socially right-of-center policies and offer Southern electorates, where Romney lost out to his competitors. Rubio has already endorsed Romney and gained national attention for his support by the Tea Party and his engagement with Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget. Cantor could prove to be a divisive choice for Jews as his pro-Israel policies have been stronger and better than Obama’s, which have been a weak point in his presidency. Paul Ryan is an obvious pick who has expressed interest in being selected, but could be too radical, even for the Republican Party, and clash against Romney, redirecting the message. 

One potential running mate that is out of the running is Sarah Palin. The media-hungry, straight-talkin’ former Governor of Alaska made as many waves as she did blunders in the 2008 season. Now, she struggles to remain relevant as she’s been out of office since 2009 and has attempted to break into the media as a pundit. Palin’s media presence may have actually lowered her credibility, as she is now so removed from policymaking itself that even a conservative crowd may view her as only a media maverick and not a viable vice-presidential candidate.

Romney will need to pick a strong, dependable candidate to complement his own weakness with conservatives, but one who can also hook moderates who are split on specific social and political issues. He must pick someone who will help him change the game.