McCain Veepstakes

DJW, the Buckeye RINO, offers analysis of which persons can help McCain gain electoral traction as VP candidates, and which ones won’t.

It has to be someone within the party. Lieberman won’t do.

McCain has already indicated that it won’t be a pro-choice candidate. And that’s wise.

Forget choosing Ohioans. I’ve heard Rob Portman and John Kasich mentioned as those possibly on the list. Neither will help him get elected. For both men, they are obscure on a national level. Portman could be too easily linked to Bush, and Obama has already replaced McCain’s first name, John, with a new first name, Bush. You’ll be hearing a lot about Obama’s opponent, Bush McCain, heading into the November elections. Few who served in the Bush Administration will be able to show enough distance from Bush to avoid making the marriage of the Bush name to the McCain name worse. Furthermore, it is doubtful that even naming an Ohioan will make any difference in carrying Ohio. Ohio voters are distrustful of current and past Republican leadership. They are eager for a Republican who is an ethics crusader. John McCain would do well to highlight his ethics crusade every time he makes a campaign stop here. Perhaps the only Republican Ohioan that can help pull off an election is Mary Taylor, as many see her as eager to do the right thing. But it wouldn’t be possible to make a case that Mary Taylor is ready to be a heartbeat away from being U.S. President. No Ohioans.

The only two former members of the Bush Administration that have any popularity at all that can distance themselves far enough from Bush are Christie Todd Whitman and Colin Powell. Whitman would be a choice consistent with McCain’s platform on the environment. Colin Powell is very popular. A current cabinet member that’s very popular, though she can’t distance herself from Bush, is Condoleeza Rice. From a popularity standpoint, Powell and Rice could help win as VP candidates, but if McCain is serious about a VP who isn’t pro-choice, that erases Whitman, Powell, and Rice. Rice appears at first glance to be the most conservative among the three on the abortion issue, but only Whitman has had a thorough vetting on the issue, so that comparison might not be valid. Nobody who served with Bush.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, for obvious reasons, cannot distance himself from Bush.

Senators and Representatives won’t work unless they have prior successful executive branch experience they can point to. There’ve already been criticisms that Americans have a poor choice for President with just legislators in the mix. The only exception I can think of that could have helped McCain is former U.S. Senator from Tennessee Fred Thompson. Thompson is an excellent communicator, Tennessee will be in play in the election, Thompson is not just popular, nationally, but is definitely popular in the South, where McCain needs to make sure his base is at fever pitch on his behalf in the fall, and Thompson also has a strong appeal to conservatives. Fred Thompson does not want the job and will not accept the job.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty does not have national appeal, lives in a state likely to be in the Democrat camp, anyway, and is not really viewed as conservative enough to energize the base for McCain.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford represents a state considered far from the mainstream, and he, himself, while acceptable to conservatives, is also perceived to be too far from mainstream America. It would have helped his chances if South Carolina had irrevocably disassociated itself from the Confederate flag many years ago, yet the flag is still flying.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist endorsed McCain before McCain won Florida. Though Crist is popular in Florida, and though he is viewed as conservative, he does not embody a McCain who has unified with the disaffected voters within the GOP. It would be helpful for McCain to choose someone who used to be on the other side of the rift. Plus, I’m going to make a bold prediction here, Florida will be in the GOP camp this November, even if the Democrats seat the full state delegation at their convention.  Crist will deliver Florida while remaining Governor, so he’s not needed as a VP.

Former HUD Secretary and Congressman Jack Kemp would be criticized for his age just as much as McCain, since he is older than McCain.

It needs to be someone prominent, someone conservative, someone from the other side of the rift, someone who can appeal to the mainstream, and someone who can energize Republican voters.

Prominent on the other side of the rift would include some former Presidential contenders from this year and prior years:

Alan Keyes–too far from the mainstream.

Steve Forbes–never energized voters

Ron Paul–without executive branch experience and not mainstream

Elizabeth Dole–might also be criticized about age, and is older than McCain

Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee–these are the three that can really help McCain.

Lamar Alexander is a former governor, is younger than McCain, has associated himself with populism via the plaid shirt (thus mainstream), will solidify the South for McCain, and will appeal to conservatives, so I think voters would be energized.  Downsides aren’t readily apparent, unless he’s portrayed as a Washington insider by virtue of his service in the U.S. Senate.

Mitt Romney, who I voted for in the primary, is a former governor, is younger than McCain, couldn’t have won Massachusetts without mainstream appeal, puts some Northern blue states in play, is definitely from the opposite side of the rift from McCain (so adding him to the ticket would signify that McCain is unifying the party), is perceived to know what he’s talking about on economic issues, energizes the base (dominated caucus states, probably would have been nominated if delegates were proportionally allocated, and is the only, repeat, the only, GOP candidate this year who had at least double digit support in EVERY primary contest before dropping out, and is the 2nd place finisher in the delegate count), is a Washington outsider, and adding him to the ticket would be consistent with McCain’s position of making change and cleaning house in Washington.  Romney would help solidify the ticket in the Intermountain West.  There are two downsides.  One is that there is apparently religious prejudice against Romney in the South, yet Romney was competitive (double-digit support) in every primary contest he participated in.  The other is that, in light of the fact that McCain has recently been making campaign appearances in African-American communities, perhaps thinking he may be able to attract disaffected black voters if Clinton steals the nomination, Romney, sadly, hasn’t made prominent efforts to reach out to African-Americans.  If Obama is the nominee, Romney could marginally help attract Latinos, though  McCain, himself, has more appeal to Latinos than Romney.  Romney should probably not be VP if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

Mike Huckabee is a former governor, is younger than McCain, is a Washington outsider, energizes his own base (which is big in the South), is a great communicator to the point that he has some mainstream appeal which he adds to with his humor, was an opponent of McCain all the way up until the nomination was clinched (so adding him to the ticket would signify McCain’s ability to unify the party).  The downsides are that many in the North and West do not think of Huckabee as really being conservative (me, included), and some are turned off by how bold he is in putting his born-again Christianity on display.  He has reached out to African-Americans and can do so again if Hillary is nominated, and he can deliver the South, including Arkansas, if Hillary Clinton is the winner, and he can put a dent in her appeal to less affluent and less educated whites.  Huckabee doesn’t really put any blue states in play, though he does prevent red states being taken away, thus a close and polarizing election would be the result.  Huckabee wouldn’t be a strong choice if Barack Obama is the Democrat nominee, but would be a great choice if Hillary Clinton is the Democrat nominee.

No matter who the Democrat nominee is and no matter who the VP is, I think there will be a distinct gender gap in November’s Presidential election.

So there you have it:  Pick Mitt Romney if Obama is the nominee.  Pick Mike Huckabee if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.  Pick Lamar Alexander if choosing the VP before the Democrats have a nominee.

I hope John McCain considers this advice.

6 Responses to “McCain Veepstakes”

  1. BrianN14 Says:

    Insightful. I agree for the most part. You’re one of the few who see the value of Alexandar. I think Pawlenty might be stronger than you claim but agree that he’s not strong enough. Romney would match up better with Obama, especially if the economy continues to be a hot topic. Romney’s weakness is the South. He won’t give you much there but you’re right he did drum up double digit support which Huck never seemed to do outside of the South and IA. I think Huck is too weak. Too many people wouldn’t take him seriously and his strong suit of Soc con credibility will do little for an election focusing on Irag, Health Care, Environment and the Economy. (people overestimate the strength of soc con because they see how it helped W. but much of that was a reaction to Clinton)

  2. buckeyerino Says:

    Thanks for stopping by and weighing in with your comments.

  3. Ben K Says:

    Good breakdown.

    I am also hoping it is Romney and agree it wont be Portman or Kasich. Or Kucinich.

  4. Pundit Mama Says:

    I like the way you think! You have my two favorite politicians on your VP short list- I would be hard pressed to choose between Gov. Huckabee and Sen. Alexandar. They are both FANTASTIC men.

  5. buckeyerino Says:

    Ben Keeler, LOL! How did you manage to find a way to sneak Dennis the Menace into the conversation? Good comic relief!

    Pundit Mama, should Mike Huckabee and Lamar Alexander arm wrestle for the title of Pundit Mama’s favorite politician? Flip a coin? What’s the tie-breaker that would help one or the other claim the top spot in your heart?

  6. HOPE ON Part 3: Above Obama’s pay grade « Buckeye RINO Says:

    […] would at least require a pro-life running mate even though McCain himself had a pro-life record.  McCain had assured us that he would.  The pick of Sarah Palin definitely helped solidify the base. Possibly related posts: […]


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