Posted by Brad @ 3:40 am on July 6th 2012

Kelly Ayotte for VP

Longtime readers will know that, when it comes to the Presidential election, I generally lean away from pundit-style hedging, instead preferring to force myself to make concrete, falsifiable prediction. Mostly I do that as an exercise – it’s very easy to say, for instance, “Obama might do this, but he also has to consider that”, but it’s also not entirely useful, because in the real world he has to do one or the other, and so he and has team have to push themselves off the fence eventually. And, if you can’t go through the mental exercise of pushing yourself off that same fence, you are essentially creating a line for your own thinking that you’ll go up to but not cross. But what’s interesting in things like the Veepstakes is the thinking that actually makes you cross the line. To actually run through the same kind of thinking a campaign has to, and to put yourself on the line in actually coming down somewhere, really does entail a different kind of thinking than just outlining options, and when you do it, you find that some assumptions you had coming in don’t follow through all the way.

That’s a bit esoteric and self-rationalizing, I guess, but in addition to just being a parlor game enthusiast, I do also find some value to actually putting money on the line, as it were. Besides, I assume it’s more interesting to readers, because hey, when I’m wrong, you can encase that in amber and hold it against me forever.

So generally every campaign cycle, I try to predict the primaries, including order of finish, general election results state-by-state, and throwing down in the Veepstakes by putting out a single name that, according to the logic (real and imagined) of the campaign, makes the most sense. It’s kind of a half endorsement, half prediction. The endorsement part isn’t in the sense that I think Person X would be the best Vice President (which I don’t really go into), but that, if you follow the campaign’s logic/needs, Person X represents the best possible choice, as determined at the time.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

In the 2008 campaign, I actually nailed it. I was one of only maybe three or four people to accurately predict Sarah Palin for VP, in June (the campaign announced her at the end of August). I also called Joe Biden for VP for Obama that July, when most people were assuming it was Kaine, Sebelius, Bayh, or Clinton (a month later, Biden was announced). That same year, I correctly predicted the finish of both the Democratic and Republican primary a few weeks before Iowa – which was a LOT less clear at the time than it is in retrospect. And while some could quibble with my Romney-Huckabee back and forth, I think it stands up damn well (to be fair, we did a lot of cattle calls, and the last one we did before voting began (linked) was the only one that that’s true for).

/SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

So, I’ve found actually going through the entire exercise gets you closer to the real result than just putting up if/thens or hedges you can point to later to avoid being called out on being wrong (we can discuss the validity of my Palin choice separately, if you like). Weirdly, I also think it’s a more interesting / deeper way of talking about the election than just shallow day-to-day observations.

ALL THAT SAID, while we here at TheCrossedPond have been relatively lax in our 2012 campaign coverage (due to cynical disinterest), I want to throw down on this one. So, below the fold, is my thought exercise leading to one name for a potential Mitt Romney VP pick – junior New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.

I have to start out with some important premises. The first and by far most controlling one is simple:

MITT ROMNEY IS GOING TO LOSE THIS ELECTION.

You can set that in stone as a prediction, but what’s important here is that it’s a constraint. If you want to understand VP picks, you have to start there – how comfortable is the candidate and his or her campaign in their prospects. If you’re relatively comfortable, you can go safe, and just find the person you can best live with. If you’re not comfortable, you might have to reach out for a game-changing kind of veep selection. Obama in 2008, for instance, had to feel pretty good about his election chances, so he didn’t necessarily have to go out of his way to appease Hilary voters, to counteract his perceived weaknesses, etc – he didn’t have to go nuts, in other words, so he could select someone like Biden rather than perhaps going out of his way to change the narrative. McCain in 2008, on the other hand, knew he had, at best, a puncher’s chance. Your Mitt Romneys or Tim Pawlentys would not do – he needed a high risk / high reward sort of pick, which is what led him to Lieberman and Palin. No candidate but an incumbent ever feels truly comfortable, but the hill to climb looks a lot bigger to some than others.

Romney in 2012 is not quite the underdog McCain was, but he’s also not quite the favorite Obama was. He’ll run a close race no matter what (through no fault of his own), but he can’t afford to go as safe as his temperament might otherwise indicate. If the election were tomorrow, he would lose respectably. And the question for his campaign is what might change that. The answer is not much – if the economy continues to trudge on lethargically but not apocalyptically, if no out-of-right-field things come along, and if Obama doesn’t implode, which seems enormously unlikely, he’s in for a Better-Than-McCain but still significant EV loss. Offhand, I’d say he can flip NC, VA, maybe FL and nothing else, putting him at 248-290 – being generous and giving him OH still makes it 266-272 – which makes, besides those four, NV, IA, and NH the do-or-die states. Don’t buy the polls saying this is a tossup election – always bet on the incumbent, and the Obama campaign, despite its protestations about Citizens United and SuperPACS, will have more money than God, an energized base, a solid base of accomplishments with ACA upheld, and an opponent with virtually no capacity to crossover and start poaching at his base (seriously, who is the Obama 2008 voter that flips Romney 2012?).

But, Romney will be relatively close – he is certainly not a Mondale, and this is not a 1996. So he has to find something that shakes up the race, but not something so out of left field that he risks imploding himself. He cannot afford a Palin – but he also can’t afford a Pawlenty.

WOULD NOT TAKE THE CALL

The other consideration for the Veepstakes is who would not actually agree to be his VP.

This is kind of a weird consideration, but like Bush in 2000 (Colin Powell), I think there are a few candidates for the VP slot that would be fantastic choices, but likely would not accept if asked.

I will, for instance, say this at the outset:

If Marc Rubio wants the job, it is his. He is, in many ways, the perfect choice – he represents a hyper-competitive state, he would be fit for the job (an important consideration for a guy like Romney; don’t expect him to pick a fly-by-night stunt casting candidate), he is very smart and articulate, he is young and self-made, and he represents a very important segment of the potential electorate (Hispanics). And he will be an incredibly strong candidate for President in 2016.

And it’s that last that keeps him out of the running. Like Chris Christie (who I don’t think would be asked even if he were willing, which he won’t be), Rubio has considerations beyond Romney 2012. He has a real shot at being President someday, on his own merits. So, given especially my point above, he has to ask himself if being the VP nominee on a ticket that is probably going to lose helps or hurts that cause. That has always been a thorny question – American political history is littered both with nobody VPs who went on to be President, as well as shooting star politicos who balanced a ticket and then went on to nothing. But if you want to do a rundown, the last VP nominees on losing tickets in the last 35 years were Sarah Palin, John Edwards, Al Gore, John Kemp, James Stockdale, Lloyd Bentson, Geraldine Ferraro – I could go on (in fact, the last losing VP nominee to even become the party nominee at a later date was Bob Dole in 1976). If you win, maybe you become Bush Sr. or Al gore. Whoopee.

So the question in front of Marc Rubio is does he like his potential now better than his potential as a Romney VP nominee? And I can’t see how you ask that question and answer the former, unless what you’re looking for is a reality show or Fox News gig.

Here are the three candidate I think Romney might consider asking, but who would turn him down:

1. Marco Rubio
2. Chris Christie
3. Paul Ryan
4. Any other “dream” nominee or great Republican prospect (Condalezza Rice, Scott Brown, whoever).

Of those, the only realistic one is Rubio, and like I said I think if he WAS interested, he would get the nod. I just don’t see it happening.

WOULD NOT GET THE CALL

1. Chris Christie
2. Rand Paul
3. Rick Santorum
4. Newt Gingrich
5. Rick Perry
6. Any other terrible “dream” nominee or great Republican prospect (Donald Trump, John Bolton, Michelle Bachmann, whoever).

Likewise, I think Christie wouldn’t take the call if made, but I don’t think it would be made. One thing Romney does not need is somebody who would violate the “First, Do No Harm” maxim for VP nominees, and in particular one who would likely do it in service of seeming insensitive to economic tribulations of voters. A Romney-Christie ticket would be almost tailor made to play into the Democrats’ likely characterization of the GOP campaign as one that was out of touch.

Similarly, I think Rojas’ argument regarding Rand Paul as a potential VP is phenomenal – really outside-the-box thinking that would have the potential to be a game changer for both parties. I just don’t think there is a chance in HELL that someone like Mitt Romney ever signs off on it. He needs to take a risk, but not a big risk. To McCain’s great credit, he was willing to lose the race by 30 points if the move gave him a better chance of winning by 2. That is not Mitt Romney Math. Romney is willing to take chances, but only chances with a very specific window of outcomes.

Finally, any of the “firebrand” kinds of candidates I don’t think are going to get serious consideration. In other years (2008, 1980), you might want the biggest swinging dick in the room – what used to be called the “attack dog” sort of VP – but I don’t think Romney particularly wants to go there, and he most certainly does not want a candidate who risks, themselves, becoming the story – which rules out pretty much all of his primary opponents. Really, after Christie and Paul, the only interesting one on this list is Santorum, but frankly Santorum scares the crap out of voters not already well into the GOP’s evangelical base, and doesn’t appreciably add anything. You’ll see his name bandied around I reckon as a way to “shore up the base” and “assuage Christian worries of his Mormonism” or whatever, but ultimately I don’t think that’s a real need here.

REAL AND PERCEIVED NEEDS

Which gets us to this. What, exactly, will Romney be looking for?

I’ll say one thing I don’t believe he’ll be looking for, particularly: shoring up the base.

That was the case in 2008, where a weak McCain faced a real challenge in an Obama that looked able to peal off Republican voters. And to the extent that that was true in 2008, it’s true now, but on balance, it is a pretty safe bet that anti-Obama voters of whatever stripe will line up behind Romney. There may be, on the margins, evangelicals who won’t vote for a Mormon, or pro-life voters who question Mitt’s commitment, and those kinds of things – and the Republican Party’s response will be “well, then you’re welcome to vote for Barack Obama.” And the base will have no answer to that.

Don’t get me wrong, I think turnout will be a huge issue for Mitt, and support from the bases of Romney vs. Obama will be very significant. But at the same time, I don’t think Romney will have to corral in the same way even McCain did. The fact that Obama is now an incumbent, and the fact that partisanship (focalized on the President) is so fever-pitch, means that Romney can probably count on 90%+ support among Republicans who show up to vote. In an open election (as in 2008), I think Romney might have had to court the base more. In this one, I really think he can just show up. I think not pissing off the base is a consideration, but not a trumping one.

So what is it that’s going to win Mitt Romney the election?

As he’s made clear, it’s economics. Romney has tied his electoral fate to the case that he is the best equipped to serve as Chief Executive Officer of America. Everything else, for better or worse, has taken a back seat to that (foreign policy, social issues, etc.). The important thing to take from that, I think, is that he intends to run a mainly economic “are you better off now than four years ago?” campaign – and that he has all those other elements that could be shored up with a VP (including economics, in the more “kitchen table” (versus CEO) sense of it). He won’t go all-in on those, but they’re out there.

There are also the tactical considerations, and specifically demographic and geographic considerations. On the former, the three biggest constituencies in American electoral politics that he is eyeing are women, youth, and Hispanics (the fourth biggest would be minorities generally, including African Americans and Asians). On the latter, as I mentioned, I think this race comes down to 5 state: Florida, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa. Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and a few others might also be in play, but really when you’re talking about Romney winning Colorado or Obama again winning North Carolina, you’re already talking about a semi-landslide election (I cannot imagine Romney winning CO and not winning NH, IA, and OH; likewise I cannot imagine Obama winning NC without VA, FL, and NV). Also worth noting: a VP selection has diminishing returns based on the size of the state. A Republican from CA, for instance, will not bring the stare inline in the same way a Republican in North Dakota will, for instance.

And finally, what are Romney’s weaknesses? I would argue it’s the idea that he’s a milquetoast dude and a flip-flopper, that he’s really white and male, and that he’s completely out of touch with normal Americans, in that he’s very rich and sheltered. Someone that can address the areas he’s not really hitting, like foreign policy and social issues, would be nice, but really the impetus will be to pick someone that shows he’s not just a whitebread, focus-grouped rich dude who doesn’t know the price of milk. He vitally needs out of this pick somebody that can reasonably pass for a middle class human being.

TOO BORING

So all that said, let’s start getting to the short lists.

There are, to my mind, two sets. The first is who, if Romney were CEO and were choosing a COO, he might be inclined to pick. But who, for whatever reason, would add nothing to the campaign or the Romney narrative. In order:

1. Bob McDonnell
2. Tim Pawlenty
3. John Thune
4. Jon Huntsman

I believe Pawlenty has been on the shortlist for VP since 1893. And I also believe that, in particular, Pawlenty and McDonnell are strong potential picks – I think Romney would be very personally comfortable with them, they would serve as very good surrogates, and they would strengthen his core message. But the key is, they would add nothing beyond that. Can you think of a single person who would not vote for Romney, but would vote for Romney/Pawlenty or Romney/McDonnell? And while geography is important, there hasn’t been a VP since LBJ that could guarantee a state (which is the strongest argument for McDonnell) – it is important to bring to the table, and guarantees a popular politician from a legit swing state a spot on the short list, but it doesn’t trump all (if it did, this shortlist is down to Portman and McDonnell).

These four are short-listers, I think, but none of them are going to get serious consideration for the call.

So having eliminated all those, who is actually in play here?

THE SHORT LIST

1. Kelly Ayotte
2. Eric Cantor
3. Rob Portman
4. Bobby Jindal

This is in order.

Romney wants someone whose selection will get headlines, or at least not underscore the main knock against him, that he’s a boring white dude who never goes against prevailing political winds. Ayotte and Jindal serve that purpose. He also wants someone who underscores his core message of competency – Portman, Cantor, and Jindal do that job. He would like some geographical help – Ayotte, Portman, and Cantor help him there. Whoever can add new spin to his core economic argument would be great – Ayotte and Jindal. Whoever can fill in gaps regarding areas he isn’t particularly strong in – Ayotte and Cantor – would also help. And finally, there is a demographic advantage to be had – and Ayotte, Jindal, and to a lesser extent Cantor offer that.

I believe this is the short list. I’ll go one by one, in reverse order.

Bobby Jindal has to be attractive. He is whip-smart, could be trusted as a surrogate, and is both a minority and has experience in really practical application of Romney’s economic message (as not a CEO, but the governor of a state that was F’d in the A). Jindal is also maybe on his last go-around as a GOP bench guy, following his hugely panned SOTU response a few years ago. He would fit Romney’s implied technocratic message to a T.

BUT, Jindal inspires precisely nobody. He underscores the sense of the ticket being composed of smarmy prep-school boys. He has no real portfolio that helps shore up Romneys’ weaknesses. His state is not a competitive one. And Louisiana has not exactly been a beacon for economic recover success.

Rob Portman is who Romney would feel most comfortable with. I think there is very little doubt about it – just as Joe Lieberman was clearly who McCain wanted to SERVE with, President Romney would most want Vice President Portman. He is also incredibly able on economic issues, and is from Ohio, which is going to be the drop-down-drag-out decider in this election.

Unfortunately, Portman doesn’t add much besides that. Beyond economics, there is no other area in which he particularly excels – he would be fantastic if Romney wanted to double down on his CEO argument, but do nothing else. And the real death knell for Portman: he’s really rich, in a way that would be tailor-made for Democratic attack ads against Romney-Portman. He essentially adds to Romney’s weaknesses and adds nothing significant except geography to his strengths (and see my comment earlier about geography and VPs not winning states). However, I believe, in a total vacuum, Portman is the guy Romney would most like to serve with. I just don’t think he’ll be allowed to choose in a vacuum.

Eric Cantor is, I think, the dark horse here. He has everything Romney might be looking for, plus three very important additional factors: 1. He’s a Jew, 2. He has significant foreign policy chops – really more than just about any Congressman you could name, 3. He is from Virginia. It would be a different sort of campaign than what Romney’s running now, but Romney-Cantor adds some significant wrinkles to the race, without any significant drawbacks. He is a strong candidate.

The negatives? I hate to say it, but the Mormon-Jew ticket might get some raised eyebrows among ignorant voters. And Cantor doesn’t offer much to the core economic message. And he forecloses the possibility of, say, appealing more to women or kitchen table voters. He is a technocrat through and through, and while I think Romney’s camp will give that significant consideration, I also think Eric Cantor will be just a shade outside the selection criteria. But I also think he’s a lot closer than most pundits have it.

Kelly Ayotte. And that leaves me with Senator Ayotte. Let’s run through her list:

1. Woman.
2. Young(ish) (~44)
3. Represents a competitive state where she might actually make a difference (NH)
4. From another important state (PA)
5. Religion: Catholic
6. Attorney General of NH
7. Foreign Policy / Veterans: Serves on Committee on Armed Services; husband is Iraq War veteran
8. Social Conservatism: Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (personally argued for parental notification of abortion); resigned after same sex marriage laws passed
9. Not rich

Ayotte has it all. And, most importantly, she brings it all to the table without significant detriments or lapses to her politicality. She can speak to kitchen table economic issues, without the baggage of CEO-ness. She can talk to new audiences without being radically different from them. She can add to Romney’s message in other areas without undercutting him. She can look qualified without being old hat. She can speak to the middle class family experience, and offers no real purchase for arguments about being out of touch or of a totally alien economic caste in the same way they’ll bury Romney alive with it. She can, in other words, add to the campaign, with no significant subtracting.

Rubio, Cantor, Portman, Jindal, McDonnell and = Pawlenty all have pluses, but Ayotte is the only one with no real minuses. She does have downsides. The first is that she’s relatively young, and the second is that, after Palin, the GOP nominee might be gunshy of nominating a pretty relatively young brunette to serve as the party’s spokesperson. But Romney can’t play it safe – at least not entirely safe.

I think there are people he would like better – Rubio and Portman, chiefly – but I also think there is nobody better than Kelly Ayotte, who will be the next Vice President nominee.

10 Comments »

  1. Really interesting post. You make some good points and I think I’m sold. My knee jerk reaction is that Romney needs someone southern or mid-western and christian as opposed to a New England Catholic, but you’re absolutely right that buy in from the base is not the issue that drumming up enthusiasm and trying to get the true swing voters is. Nikki Haley might be interesting but I’m pretty sure she’s one of the people who said that she would decline the offer if asked.

    Comment by Liz — 7/6/2012 @ 1:36 pm

  2. Ah-ha, I totally forget to list Haley! In one of the early cattle calls, I think I actually listed her as the most likely VP.

    I am not so sure that she declines if asked, but if you’re a vetter, two things give you pause about Haley:

    1. Consistent allegations of “issues” (affairs, primarily). I personally don’t think there’s anything to it, but it’s got to be issue #1 on your dossier – the LAST thing a candidate like Romney wants is to pick a VP and then have the next month be Nightline specials about whether she likes to fuck bloggers. Likewise, there are a couple of minor headline-grabbers in SC about her that will be radioactive to what Romney is going to try to do. They aren’t much in themselves – reports of lavish travel on the public dime, being condescending to a female reporter, that kind of stuff. But like the affairs, that’s stuff Romney does not need rehashed in the national press one week after she joins his ticket.

    2. I also think there’s a bit too much Palin to her, in the sense that I think Haley would draw a lot more visceral reaction from the left and could very quickly and easily be painted as a far-right Tea Partier. About the only governor that Romney could do worse with, in that regard, would be Scott Walker.

    Haley was a very early favorite in the Veepstakes, I think, and while I wouldn’t fall off my chair if she were picked, I think it’s questionable that she wouldn’t be too much of a distraction for Romney’s tastes.

    As to your knee-jerk, I think that tends to be everybody’s knee-jerk: that the immediate need is balance geographically and with religion. But honestly, as to the former, I think geographic balance has been over-stated as a VP criteria for a long time. You can play with it (Clinton-Gore), you can try to compensate with it (Kerry-Edwards), but the real successful picks tend to offer PERSONALITY balance – think Cheney, Biden, Palin. If they’re from a competitive state or a region where you need help, even better, but I think sort of like the NBA draft, you draft for talent rather than position needs.

    In any event, I also think that the battlegrounds this year won’t be Southern or Midwestern, but will be Rust Belt – like I said, I’m looking at Ohio and Nevada as the bellweathers. Sure NC and VA are in play, but if Romney can’t put those states back in the Republican pocket this year, he’s got a lot bigger problems than can be fixed with a VP selection. In any event, the question is also what can win those states – what does Ohio, Florida, Nevada, New Hamsphire, etc. have in common? For Romney, the answer is: unemployment. So his first, and trumping, consideration is going to be picking someone that can speak to kitchen table economics and sound like a human being while doing it. If that person is from a swing state or region, so much the better.

    The religion thing is the interesting wrinkle with Romney, but again, right after the “He’s going to lose” premise, number two would be “He can count on Republicans”. This election is going to be so hyper-partisan that I cannot imagine a scenario in which evangelicals jump ship over doctrinal matters (the ONLY way I could see it is if he chose another Mormon to run with him, i.e. Huntsman). They’ll grouse and scratch for ring-kissing like they always do, but they had their chance in the primary, and now, for the GOP base, the nominee is all but irrelevant – the election is all about beating Obama. And, frankly, unless you’re picking a freakishly social conservative evangelical like Santorum, I just don’t think the return on investment between a Protestant VP versus a Catholic or Jew is going to account for much, and certainly not more than other considerations.

    Comment by Brad — 7/6/2012 @ 2:41 pm

  3. Yeah, I feel ya. Makes sense. And I had totally forgotten about the blogger affair whispers until you mentioned it. One would imagine that Romney’s vetters have not.

    I think that the only thing that Haley might do is ramp up people who are going to vote for Romney anyway, so she’d be kind of a neutral pick with the potential for backlash if the more scandalous stuff turned out to be true.

    Funny how it’s just an impulse to balance things on a ticket though. I had to think about why I went there and couldn’t come up with a good reason in this case.

    So, good call. We’ll see how this plays out. Anne Romney was talking about the campaign looking into a woman VP candidate in the last day or so too.

    Of course now that I was rewarded with throwing out a name and getting your analysis, what about Susana Martinez? Woman, Hispanic, governor?

    Comment by Liz — 7/6/2012 @ 6:59 pm

  4. Huh. Hadn’t even thought of her. The main strikes against her would be that she’s in her first year as Governor, with no real policy-making experience prior. Wikipedia also tells me she’s a former Democrat, and has stated multiple times she wouldn’t run if asked. Other than that, I know next to nothing about her and have never seen her. She looks like she’d be more of a Tough on Crime kind of candidate than anything.

    Comment by Brad — 7/6/2012 @ 7:47 pm

  5. And I won’t even really bother addressing Condaleeza Rice.

    Comment by Brad — 7/13/2012 @ 1:32 pm

  6. MSNBC has a very easy-read breakdown of the presumed shortlist that’s worth a look. Basically inline with what I’m saying.

    Comment by Brad — 7/16/2012 @ 11:49 am

  7. It also sounds like he has made his decision already, and could announce as early as this week.

    Comment by Brad — 7/16/2012 @ 1:02 pm

  8. Or not.

    Other rumor popping up today is General David Petraeus. And I say “rumor” like that means something other than a Drudge Report story.

    Leaving aside everything else – and there is a lot else – I’d say Petraeus is disqualified simply because Romney doesn’t want to run on foreign policy, for the simple fact that he doesn’t have anything to say, and knows it. Although poaching the sitting CIA Director would certainly add layers to the race which would be kind of awesome.

    U.S. News and others are saying Portman, Pawlenty, and Jindal are the shortlist. I dismiss Pawlenty out of hand, replacing him with Cantor on my own assumed non-Ayotte shortlist, which I still think is right. Of Portman and Jindal, I frankly think it’s Jindal’s stock who has risen more since my post above (adding however that, if you do go by geography, Ohio’s stock as a swing state and key target for Romney has also risen). For two reasons.

    The first is I think, despite my smarmy post a few weeks ago, that Team Romney has to be pretty worried that the Bain, tax return offshoring jobs kind of stuff that Team Obama did a pretty effective job with and which Team Romney would like to switch the narrative from – and with Portman you suddenly have a whole new set of tax returns to demand and discuss, a whole legislative career of votes and statements to parse, and also a fair bit of history dealing with lobbying, PACs, etc. etc.

    The second is I think two elements of Jindal have become more important. The first is his background as a child of immigrants, a self-made man, and somebody able to speak to the “Other” (in the Edward Said sense) experience, in a way Obama can but Romney can absolutely not – and Romney’s inability to do so is beginning to loom larger and larger. The more Romney is losing the argument about his white-breadness, out-of-touchnesses, etc. etc., the more I think Jindal might look attractive – Ayotte too, but Jindal offers some distinctly interesting possibilities in that sense. Also, given that Romney’s foreign policy justification is virtually non-existent and how badly that trip went, and given that the economy favors him, a third, very important element that he’s going to have trouble with and could make or break his candidacy is health care – and something we don’t talk enough about regarding Jindal is his complete fluency in talking about health care. He literally wrote his thesis on it, and although his positions on it are, ahem, “nuanced”, if there is anybody on the GOP side who can articulate, defend, and even advance Romney’s position on the matter (whatever that is), it’s Jindal. Given that foreign policy ain’t going to fly beyond a preaching to the choir sense, and economics is something Romney has to get voters for regardless of his VP or he’s going to lose, adding somebody that can actually tackle health care but in a way that doesn’t box Romney in (by, say, being dogmatic), has to look pretty good. Offhand, I can’t think of many other prominent (or not) Republicans that might have the intellect and moxie to be able to handle that. Jindal could. If Romney hadn’t botched his foreign trip, that might not be as important.

    So, in order, I currently think the most likely are:

    1. Kelly Ayotte
    2. Mark Rubio
    3. Bobby Jindal
    4. Eric Cantor
    5. Rob Portman

    Incidentally, I am also less certain than before the Rubio will turn down the call – although I still think he will (and I do think he will get it). I think all the rest would take it. What’s throwing me about Rubio is that the Republicans very much tend towards the “next in line” approach – that is one of the fundamentals of their primary process. That obviously hasn’t panned out with VPs – Palin, Cheney, Kemp, Quayle, etc. – but here might be a case where there IS no next in line in terms of potential top-of-the-tickets, in the same way Romney or Huckabee were from 2008 or McCain was from 2000 or Dole was from 1992 or Bush Sr. was from 1980 etc. You have no such analogue from this race. Given that vacuum, Rubio’s camp might reckon – and I could not fault them for it – that having that experience and that patina, even if they lose, might give them a leg-up on the 2016 competition (Christie, Rand Paul, whoever). It may turn a 2000 situation in 2016 to a 1996 situation, which benefits whoever is on the ticket. It might, in fact, be a smart play for Rubio.

    I could see any as the VP nominee, but that’s my betting line, and I still think Ayotte.

    Comment by Brad — 8/7/2012 @ 7:32 pm

  9. And this is interesting too, for the names that are on it, and aren’t.

    Comment by Brad — 8/7/2012 @ 7:35 pm

  10. Interestingly, Liz, Pawlenty dropped Martinez’s name as a potential VP.

    Ayotte’s name no longer comes up at all in any of the speculation, leading me to believe she’s either the nominee, or was discovered to have choked a hooker to death behind a Motel 6 in 1997.

    Comment by Brad — 8/8/2012 @ 9:01 pm

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