Since some individuals were elected/ appointed to the office of Vice-President (Ford, Papa Bush, Cheney, Rockefeller) or at least nominated (Shriver, Ferraro) without being a sitting Senator or Governor, it’s time to look at the other candidates for the 2012 Republican Veepstakes long-list. The list mostly includes Representatives and former Governors.
Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee
While she’s never been elected to statewide office, Mrs Blackburn’s prominent positions within the Republican Conference, as the Deputy Whip and the Communications Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, probably help the fifth-term Congresswoman pass the qualifications threshold. With Congressional approval ratings in the single digits, a member of the House leadership is probably less likely to go from the long-list to the short list. Still, she’s not a white guy. As a Southern protestant legislator, she’ll bring some diversity to a ticket with Mitt Romney. In 2007, she went from being a Romney supporter to a Fred Thompson supporter, which probably makes her more appealing as Romney’s #2 to southern conservatives.
Conservatives respect him, he can carry a swing state and a poll showed that putting him on the ticket would help Romney win Hispanic voters. This is probably more than the Republicans could have hoped for. Looking at the current polling, getting the same amount of Hispanic voters as McCain did might be a victory, so an outright win would be astounding. The most obvious problem for Jeb on the ticket is the last name, although George W Bush’s reputation has improved as of late.
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia
The sole Jewish Republican in Congress recently formed a Super-PAC, which can give him more of a national presence. Virginia is also now arguably the swing state. Like Blackburn, he’s a member of the congressional leadership, and often derided in the media. So picking Cantor as his veep would make Romney less able to distance himself from Congress. On the other hand, Cantor would also provide a prominent advocate for Congressional Republicans.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee
Frist was considered a potential replacement for Cheney back in 2004, so he passes the qualification threshold. In the years since, he has been involved in bipartisan international health initiatives. He’s familiar with the media, which means there won’t be as much of a learning curve. On the other hand, he’s also a middle-aged white guy from a state that is not in play. And he was in charge of the Senate right before the Democrats took over. He’s not a strong contender, but there might at some point be chatter about him, as there was about Sam Nunn in 2004 and 2008.
Jonathan Bernstein’s choice for Romney’s running mate. Huckabee ran for President before, and polled pretty well against Obama in 2012 match-ups last year. He’s been vetted and he would help Romney with religious voters not inclined to support the mormon. He also became Governor of Arkansas under difficult circumstances, demonstrating his skills at the most important potential duty of a Vice-President. Despite some gaffes, Huckabee is an effective communicator, and familiar with the media.
He’s also a middle-aged white guy. And he’s been out of office since 2006. So there are some problematic similarities with Romney. Many conservatives view him as a fiscal liberal. Though their opinion doesn’t seem to be all that important, considering how well he polls. He was fairly critical of Romney in 2008, so this would be a unity ticket. And he would appeal to the voters who backed Santorum, some of whom might otherwise vote for Obama.
Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a first-term Representative to make the Vice-Presidential short-list, though it would be quite rare. George HW Bush was considered a possible running mate for Nixon back in ’68. Noem has risen quickly since her election to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 2006, becoming the Assistant Majority Leader during her last year. The main reason she’s a possible running mate is that Romney’s advisors might decide that he would benefit the most from having an Evangelical woman on his ticket. Though it could also help to have a political outsider from the Midwest.
The guy who finished second to Palin in the 2008 veepstakes, and the first to drop out of the 2012 race. He’s one of the safest choices available, a familiar presence to political pundits. So if the primary qualification of a running mate is to do no harm, Pawlenty is worth considering. For Romney, there’s the benefit that Pawlenty will have been a prominent member of his campaign for nearly an year, which eliminates the argument that Romney chose someone he didn’t know very well.
CIA Director David Petraeus
The only reason he’s not in the top five is that I don’t see any indication he wants to be on a national ticket. If he shows any interest at all, he’ll be on the short-list, due to his foreign policy credentials. Even if he’s a white guy, and a moderate from New England.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington
There was some recent chatter about her as a potential veep. Her backstory is compelling. She married her husband, a retired naval commander, while she was in Congress. She is the highest ranking Republican woman on Capitol hill, so it shouldn’t be difficult to convince voters that she’s qualified for the Vice-Presidency, although she is largely unknown. She endorsed Romney early, so there wouldn’t be the knock there was against Sarah Palin that the nominee barely knew his running mate, prior to the endorsement.
There’s a lot of talk about Ryan right now, and it’s understandable. The guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s young. Conservative intellectuals love him. And as a seventh term Congressman and the Finance Committee Chairman, he’s qualified to be on a national ticket.
As noted with Blackburn and Cantor, there are many reasons for Romney to not pick a member of the Congressional leadership. Paul Ryan’s media-savvy, but he’s a high-profile target for Democrats already. And the willingness to tackle unpopular issues can be a liability. But the guy seems like he knows what he’s talking about, which makes him difficult to demagogue.
There are a few politicians who Mitt Romney will not select as his running mate, who could have been plausible choices for other candidates. John Huntsman is a Mormon Governor, so there won’t be a Romney/ Huntsman ticket, but he could have been a plausible #2 for Gingrich. Romney also won’t choose a Pro-Choice executive who hasn’t held office in a decade, but Rudy Giuliani would have been a potential running mate for Rick Perry. As would have Joe Lieberman.