Mitt Romney announced on Monday that he has begun the search for a running mate in the 2012 presidential election. Now the questions arise as to who that running mate will be. He entrusted the task of selecting candidates to his long-time aid and advisor, Beth Myers. Myers was also very influential in the selection of a lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
Several names have already been suggested by the media as to who Romney might choose: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Susana Martinez, and several others . While Romney himself has said it’s “way too early” to start serious discussion, the wheels are now in motion toward a selection. In my opinion, there are three major factors for Romney’s campaign to consider while seeking a running mate: home state, political ideology, and race/gender.
The state from which Romney’s future running mate hails could have an impact on his chances of election in two ways. First, if the running mate chosen is from a populous state with a lot of electoral votes, it could significantly boost Romney’s numbers. Second, Romney needs someone from another part of the country to establish a regionally balanced ticket, essentially ruling out anyone from the New England vicinity. This would give the Republican Party more support from another area and could help widen Romney’s geographic appeal.
The next factor Romney should consider is relatively obvious: political ideology. Romney must decide how far to the right he'll go. Once again, Romney would do well to expand his reach in this regard. As a moderate , Romney is most likely going to choose someone with more rightward views than his own in order to appease the far right and tea-party factions within the Republican camp. To do this would be to follow the example set by several Republican presidents before him (such as conservative Reagan choosing moderate George H. W. Bush as a running mate in 1980 or Gerald Ford selecting Bob Dole to offset his moderate views in 1976).
The final trait that Romney and his associates should carefully take into account is the gender and ethnicity of potential vice presidential candidates, especially given the fact that he’ll be running against the first African-American president. It would be beneficial for Romney to find a running mate who was either female or a minority (or both). This could help him avoid the perception that he is just a “rich white guy.”
In fact, this played a large role in his selection of Kerry Murphy Healey as his running mate in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election. After claiming he would simply accept the choice of the state Republican convention, Romney decided rejected James Rappaport, a fellow multi-millionaire, as his running-mate, because he felt it would lead opponents to call them the “Rolls-Royce ticket.” Clearly, this sort of pairing would also not help Romney to defeat Obama, which is why he should be focusing on women and minorities during his search for a VP.
Another factor that could play a role in Romney’s VP selection is religion. Despite the fact that controversy over Romney’s status as a Mormon seems to have abated, it could all come back to the forefront in the general election. Because of this, Romney may decide to look for a Protestant Christian as a running mate. Such a choice could appease people who are uncertain about putting a Mormon in the White House, as well as help him to win votes from Evangelicals.
Myers and her colleagues have their work cut out for them in producing a list of possibilities for Romney to choose from. Lucky for them, they have much more time in this election than the three weeks they had before the state convention in the 2002 governor’s race. During the four months between now and the Republican National Convention, we will inevitably hear quite a few names mentioned, one of which (probably one who has not been suggested as of yet) will eventually be designated as Mitt Romney’s running mate on the 2012 Republican ticket.