A few weeks ago I surveyed the major contenders to be named for Barack Obama’s running mate and concluded that he will likely select a popular governor in a swing state. Why a governor? Because anything associated with Washington, D.C. is toxic. President Bush’s popularity is in the 20s and the popular rating for Congress is 9 percent!
Since both Barack Obama and John McCain are themselves senators (though neither is known as an insider), they both need running mates who represent a break with Washington, D.C. as it exists today. Here are the leading candidates for the second spot on the Republican ticket:
Mitt Romney. Everything Romney has done in life he’s done well at — except running for president, where he flopped (mainly because he flip-flopped). Some conservatives see him as the next Reagan, though Reagan was more of a philophical conservative than either Romney or McCain. The former Massachusetts governor is whip-smart, articulate, and will have no problem helping the ticket raise money. Main drawbacks: In some ways he is similar to President Bush — son of a former candidate for president (George Romney was Michigan governor in the 60s), Ivy League educated, comfortable in the corporate world, a former governor, etc. If he’s not McCain’s VP, he would be a leading contender to be his treasury secretary.
Mike Huckabee. No one did more with less in the 2008 race for president than Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor would bring geographical and cultural balance to the ticket, and would help secure the South. His drawbacks: Unless McCain does something really dumb, he’s going to win the south anyway. McCain needs to inspire the conservative base of his party and do better in swing states. Other candidates could do a better job at both than Huckabee, a pro-life moderate.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. His resume blows Barack Obama away. A Rhodes Scholar who turned down offers to attend Harvard and Yale, Jindal headed Louisiana’s Medicare system and served as the president of the state’s university system before he was 30. He lost an agonizingly close race for governor in 2003, served in Congress, and won his second race for governor easily in 2007. A Catholic convert (his parents are Hindu who came here from India), he is a practical but philosophical conservative. Drawbacks: Born in 1971, he is nearly a decade younger than Barack Obama.
Tim Pawlenty. At 48, Pawlenty has been governor of Minnesota, a key swing state, for five years. The son of a milkman whose mother died when he was a teenager, Pawlenty is widely viewed as a “safe” choice for McCain. Drawbacks: Can McCain afford to play it safe?
Kay Bailey Hutchison. Major asset: She is a she. Major Drawback: She is a Texan in a year where it doesn’t help to be from Texas.
Charlie Crist. Looking older than his 52 years, Crist is the popular governor of one of the biggest swing states of them all: Florida. He was also a strong and early backer of John McCain. Drawbacks: Doesn’t create much buzz and exitement in a year when McCain will need both.
Rob Portman. A highly intelligent former congressman who has held two cabinet posts, Portman is a youthful 53 and comes from the all-important state of Ohio. Drawbacks: A D.C. insider in a year where people want a break with the status quo.
Predictions: Either Romney, Pawlenty or Jindal. If the consultants and money people have their way, it’ll be Romney. If the grass roots have their way, McCain will double down with Jindal. And if he opts to play it safe, it’ll be Pawlenty.