Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner suggested that a boring, white male running mate might be a good fit for Mitt Romney. He compared it to Bill Clinton’s selection of fellow southerner Al Gore as a running mate. I thought that his take on this was kinda stupid.
Anyway, ticket-balancing is not the only successful approach, as Bill Clinton understood. When he clinched the Democratic nomination in 1992 as a Southern moderate, it was widely assumed he would pick a Northern liberal, as Jimmy Carter had.
Instead he chose a fellow Southern Baptist of his own generation with a reputation for moderation and congressional experience in national security issues, Al Gore. They were from adjoining Southern states and when the ticket was announced they met on the bridge between West Memphis, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee.
This unbalanced ticket won two elections, carrying six of 14 Southern states in both 1992 and 1996. Democratic nominees from Massachusetts, both with Southern running mates, carried none in 1988 and 2004.
A similar approach for Mitt Romney would be what opponents might call a double-vanilla ticket, with another white male as vice presidential nominee.
One reason the lack of ticket-balancing worked was that both Clinton and Gore were from a constituency that favored the other political party. The problem with a double-vanilla ticket is that white guys are already more likely to vote Republican. The GOP needs everyone else.
A Romney/ Christie ticket could be compared to Clinton/ Gore, as it would feature two guys from a region that favors the Democratic party. A 2016 Rubio/ Martinez ticket would also follow in the spirit of Clinton/ Gore, with two Hispanic candidates representing a new face for the GOP. But if John Kerry had chosen Howard Dean to be his running mate, that would not have been the spirit of the 1992 ticket, even if it featured two guys from neighboring states, since their region was overwhelmingly Democratic already.
It is worth noting that the 1992 presidential election was rather unusual. President Bush was saddled with an unpopular Vice-President he was unable to replace. Ross Perot was also in the race, making Bill Clinton look like an experienced statesman in comparison. Al Gore’s record as a legislator also made him a good running mate for a Governor. And they certainly had some tonal differences. Despite their similarities in terms of geography and age, there were several ways in which they complimented one another.