Perfect 2012 running mates

Perfect 2012 running mates
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NOTE: I just want to remind everyone that I, J.J., will be making my first-ever convention appearance this weekend (May 26-27) at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival at the Roundhouse in Yaletown. Please try to come and visit! I’ll have lots of fun, exclusive Filibuster stuff for sale, and I promise we can argue about whatever political issue you like. For more information, please visit the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival website!

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So… veepstakes anyone?

With Ron Paul now more-or-less officially out of the race, the last faint flame of drama in the lengthy GOP primary has finally been snuffed, and there’s not much left to do but wait around till the party’s big fancy convention in August. And thus begins everyone’s favourite two months of the political season, where the hottest game in town is idly trying to predict which currently unknown political figure will soon be catapulted into Saturday Night Live skits as the prospective goofy sidekick of America’s next prospective leader.

You could fill one of Mitt Romney’s spacious summer homes with all the mythologies and urban legends that surround the office of vice president. Almost nothing we’re told about the office is born out by actual fact or history, and yet the same old tropes just refuse to die.

“The vice president helps the president gain an edge in the electoral college, by adding a second safe ‘home state’ to the ticket”

Uh, no. Since World War II, there’s no evidence any vice president has ever been appointed for this reason, and in several cases (most recently Bob Dole’s 1996, running mate, Jack Kemp) a presidential candidate has actually lost the state his VP was from. Tickets have not consistently been north-south alliances, east-west alliances, blue state-red state alliances, or any other sort of strategically logical geographic pairing. Clinton-Gore was South-South, Bush-Cheney was red-red, and Obama-Biden was blue-blue. Even John F. Kennedy’s mythological appointment of Texan Lyndon Johnson in 1960 — supposedly the pinnacle practice of this art form — is only impressive if you conveniently forget how solidly Democratic the south was in those days.

The fact that the press is currently obsessed with the idea that Florida Senator Marco Rubio or Ohio Senator Robert Portman “top” some mythical Romney shortlist is a premise based entirely on this discredited theory, and should be safely discarded as such.

“The vice president adds ideological balance to the ticket, and gives the presidential candidate a broader appeal.”

This too is a pleasant-sounding premise with almost zero evidence to support it. Bill Clinton was considered a liberal Democrat and so was Al Gore. George W. Bush was a conservative Republican, and so was Dick Cheney. Obama and Biden were both liberals, as were Kerry and Edwards. And again, there’s evidence that actually following this rule is just as likely to cause harm as good: Al Gore may have cost himself the presidency by appointing conservative Democrat (and now independent) Senator Joe Lieberman in the 2000 race, considering how aggressively Ralph Nader was benefiting from a disillusioned left, and certainly John McCain alienated many of his moderate supporters with an embryonic Tea Partier like Sarah Palin. In any case, the steady ideological purification process both parties have been undertaking over the last couple of decades effectively makes this entire strategic premise now fairly dated. Despite his “moderate” persona, Mitt Romney already claims to support most of what the dogmatic right-wing of his party wants; he can’t ideologically pander much more than he already has in the primary.

“The vice president adds racial/gender/religious/whatever diversity to the ticket, which is good for pandering”

This one might be built on slightly stronger ground, since it’s quite hard to understand what motivated Walter Mondale to appoint the unqualified and unaccomplished Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in 1984, or John McCain to tap the equally unqualified Governor Palin in 2008, other than a desire to pander to female voters. Still, considering the fact that women currently make up half the electorate, it’s quite remarkable that there have only been two female VP nominees in the last seven elections, despite a relative abundance of eligible female office-holders. The fact is, minorities are fairly entrenched in their voting preferences: the GOP could nominate Herman Cain and Colin Powell and they’d still probably loose the black vote overwhelmingly, just as Mitt Romney will almost certainly lose the Hispanic vote Rubio or no Rubio or (even more implausibly) Susana Martinez or no Susana Martinez.

The vice presidency, in short, is often presumed to be the most supremely logical, calculated, rational appointment any presidential hopeful ever makes, despite the fact that the presidential hopefuls themselves have said, very loudly and often, that their actual decision-making process is mostly influenced by hazy, unmeasurable concerns such as who they like, who they presume they can “work with” and whose “skills” compliment their own. This is why, in turn, the science of veepwatching is so notoriously flawed and useless; “shortlists” are only ever accurate if they’re  so broad as to include every sitting senator and governor under the sun, and even then — as was the case with non-office holder Dick Cheney — it can still be a bit of a crap shoot. But the cottage industry of premature, evidence-free predictions continues to persist, if for no other reason than we all have short memories about this kind of thing (who remembers the reign of one-time Bush VP “front runners” George Pataki and Tom Ridge, for instance) and because it’s just so much… well, fun to engage in this entertaining mix of armchair strategizing, psychoanalysis, and political trivia.

Give it a try yourself! Who do you think the Romney VP will/should be?


  1. Felix Jennby

    "most recently Bob Dole’s 1996, running mate, Jack Kemp"

    More recently than that, my esteemed Mr. McCullough. Most recently was in 2004, when the Democratic ticket lost North Carolina by 12.7% (over 400,000 votes) despite having Tar Heel John Edwards as their VP candidate. ;)

  2. Steve

    You probably shouldn't be allowed on the internet anymore.

  3. Jbot

    I assume you'll probably be sending your petition for a restraining order to the Court of Interwebs?

  4. Jon Bennett

    I think/hope the lesson of Palin should be that the running mate should "First, Do No Harm." (And yes, I realize McCain was dead in the water until Palin excited the base, but I doubt she was the ONLY candidate who could do so.)

  5. @MilesToCode

    I honestly don't think it would make a difference if Romney took Charles Manson or Mother Teresa as a running mate. The press is still going to dig up stupid stuff to try to discredit him. The latest example is the 150 year old story of some Mormon assault down south and they're trying to tag Romney with it. If a prominent Jew ran would the same media tag him with the killing of Christ?

    Boy I miss actual news reporting instead of this gotcha bullshit.

  6. Jbot

    You mean like the good old days?

  7. @Andy928766

    My pointless, mostly speculative guess for Romney's running mate is Rob Portman.

  8. paul
    For the record, this seems to be what Milestocode is talking about. Not really attacking Romney, even notes that Mormons were on the receiving end of the vast majority of violence during that time. But still, LIBRUL MEDIA! Did you just read the snide comment about this article on or some other part of the echo chamber or did you read the article for yourself and determine it was attacking Romney?

  9. Jake_Ackers

    The ticket who is closer in ideology wins. A person is voting for you for a reason, so underline, bold, and make it larger. You only need a majority of the vote to win (270 in the electoral college overall i know but you get my point).

    Like I've said before Obama's gay marriage stance has caused Romney to appear as an ultra-conservative so now he can pick a social moderate and a strong economic conservative like Rob Portman who is more like him than lets say Santorum or Bachmann.

    It has to be a Senator with a focus on foreign policy that or some Ambassador/Former Cabinet member. Condi Rice could be a good pick to help him with conservatives but will just scream BUSH BUSH BUSH all over the media. But if Hillary is VP then yah Condi might be worth it.

    Hillary is quite the Blue Dog Democrat when compared to Obama even Joe Biden was quite conservative although his voting record is just as liberal as Obama's.

  10. Ben

    What about Bush-critic, former Obama-supporter Colin Powell. Perhaps his recent support of SSM (along with other previous positions) could moderate the party that's been veering right and bring the focus of the election firmly back to the economy? He's also black, foreign policy and military expert with federal executive experience. Possibly the first ticket in a while without a former Congressperson, but it could be daring.

  11. Jake_Ackers

    Good point. But he still would be attacked by the left as being for Iraq before he was against it or vice versa. But yah better than Condi Rice in terms of flank from the left. Although would look like he is only against Obama because he is on the ticket. And the Right might or might not warm up to him. Thing is Colin Powell is too far left for Romney. Romney needs a moderate that is just like him. Remember candidates need to underline and bold their message. Romney's strong point is that he is just now as being viewed as conservative enough for the Republicans. Powell is to the left of Obama on marriage.

    Plus Powell has said he rather not be on a ticket because of his personal family issues.

  12. Kento

    If Rice is chosen, how would the Republicans explain both members of their ticket knowing French?

  13. Gray

    I'm going to dispute one point in your bit above, and that's the bit about LBJ and Texas. Yes, the South had been solid for Democrats for a long time, but by the late 1950s it was clear that this was cracking apart…Eisenhower had won several states around the edges of the South in both 1956 and 1960 (including Texas both times) As it was, Texas was one of the closer states in 1960…it was arguably a battleground from 1952-1980 or thereabouts (JFK, LBJ, and HHH won TX…arguably on the back of LBJ's machine there; so did Carter as he swept most of the South in '76), after which the bottom dropped out of Democratic support in the South. It was close in 1992 and 1996, but that probably had as much to do with Perot being on the ballot as anything, and the state was substantially more friendly to the GOP than the country as a whole both times.

  14. guest

    I can quite confidently say that Mitt will NOT pick Huntsman, Gingrich, Perry or Paul. Huntsman because that would be fatal to the evangelicals, Gingrich because he is loathesome, Perry because he fails the intelligent/coherent test, and Paul because those votes don't win him elections.
    While I like JJ's analysis I think Mitt needs someone who can soften some of the harder aspects. He needs someone economically conservative, religiously palateable, working-class, and preferably ethnic. Of course, he has to find someone who is all of those things – plus intelligent and coherent and appealling.
    I think Rubio offers some of the above but he is far from a lock.
    I think we can rule out Walker and probably Haley. I think Christie would be very interesting.
    Perhaps just as interesting – do you think Obama is still happy with his choice???

  15. Ben

    Christie would be interesting but would he be attacked for being disingenuous? I mean, with his "I am governor and will remain governor" spiel.

  16. Gray

    Christie vs. Biden in a debate could probably go on Pay-Per-View.

  17. guest

    The correct answer whenever ANYONE is asked if they have been approached about VP is "I am very happy serving the people of ____ [insert constituency here] and plan to continue to do so".
    No one is supposed to say they want to be VP.
    And yes Gray – that would be a real battle royal. I think Christie would wipe the floor with Biden.

  18. Gray

    I agree on that point (if just because, as debates seem to be measured by memorable sound bytes anymore, Christie should have about a 4:1 edge in those)…really, the biggest risk with Christie is that, though he would stay on message (from what I can tell, he's disciplined enough to do that most of the time…the closest he comes is when he engages a protestor or heckler) BUT he'd overshadow Romney with a bit more "color" than the latter knows what to do with and make him seem dull by comparison.

  19. Alcofribas

    It might be "borne out" of actual fact and history.

  20. Virgil

    If I may make a historical observation:

    I believe the stereotypical notion regarding ideological balance had its basis in the election of 1900, when McKinley was having his rematch against William Jennings Bryan and sought to outdo him on the stump and with bigger government policies by bringing Teddy Roosevelt on board. It worked, but we know the results. The most recent time I can think of ideological balance arguably working was in 1980 when Bush was brought on to unify the Republican party. However, this was an exceptional case as the new conservative movement seemed to be in the position of the Harper minority government about 5 years ago… wasn't trusted with the full reigns of power just yet and so older voices were needed to bring it along.

  21. Virgil

    And my guess…Rob Portman

  22. SES

    I don't know. If Romney is going for someone from a swing state, he might want someone more well-known. Portman doesn't really have a very high profile in most of Ohio; I think PPP found that he had the lowest in-state name recognition of any sitting senator.

    On the other hand, if he doesn't want to be outshone, then Portman is definitely his guy.

  23. Jake_Ackers

    How about Fred Thompson? Good experience in foreign policy. Lived in the North and is from the South. Seems to be very conservative but moderate enough for Romney.