After former Governor Mitt Romney secured the Republican nomination this week, the next question is who he will choose to join him on the ticket. For the past couple of months, there has been extensive speculation as to who exactly the lucky vice presidential winner will be. For better or for worse, Republicans learned a lot from the McCain campaign in 2008, in particular the importance of the VP choice.
When Senator McCain first selected then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, his approval ratings skyrocketed. In fact, they were some of his highest numbers during his entire campaign. But shortly after, Palin became less than the ideal candidate. Despite her qualifications, people wrote her off as stupid and she became a staple for Saturday Night Live skits.
In general, a VP candidate has minimal responsibilities. They are to: 1) carry their own state, 2) not embarrass the candidate, 3) bring policy knowledge or experience to a particular area that the main candidate may be weak on. For example, current Vice President Joe Biden was chosen because of his foreign policy prowess within the Senate, not because Delaware was a swing state. With McCain/Palin, the situation was different. Since Alaska was a Red State to begin with, Palin's first task was not a difficult one. However, the second obligation turned out to be more of a challenge for the Alaska governor.
The McCain/Palin campaign taught the Romney campaign one important lesson: go with the safe bet. Initially, it seems that this could be a poor strategic choice. Considering that Romney is already the “boring” candidate to begin with, some suggested and expected a more exciting VP — one that brought diversity (of some sort) to the ticket. Many hoped to see a young Republican like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a woman such as New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, or even the Indian-American and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindhal. Just last week there was talk about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie making an appearance, despite the fact that he has declared that he will not run on multiple occasions.
The fact of the matter is that Romney campaign does not want to risk it. And, furthermore, many of these frontrunners don’t want the coveted position. Many, like Rubio perhaps, are waiting for their chance to be on the top of the ticket. This election will be an uphill battle against an incumbent. These potential VP nominees should remember that just four years down the road could be their chance to shine.
In the meantime, the Romney campaign is in search of a Republican governor or senator, preferably from a swing state, who will keep his mouth shut. Senator Rob Portman from Ohio could fit the bill. But in the meantime, we must wait until August to discover whom the silver haired man will be on the bottom half of the “Romney” bumper stickers. The anticipation builds the excitement so the candidate will not have to.