Who won’t Romney choose?

Who won’t Romney choose?

There are no labels in this cartoon, as you might have noticed. A while ago I was having a chat with my editorial cartoonist pal Matt Bors, and he was big on the idea that for a cartoon to be worth anything at all, its caricatures should be more or less recognizable in the context in which they appear. So have some fun with this one, and hopefully you can identify all the various men and women who are unlikely to be picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate when he announces his choice in the next few days.

Among her many other dubious legacies, it’s interesting to wonder if Sarah Palin has forever tainted the idea of a “novelty” running-mate. If Romney chooses a dull vice president, as virtually everyone in the press expects him to do at the moment, the man (for that’s what he will be) will almost certainly be held up as the “anti-Palin,” and we’ll hear much about how “safe” and “predictable” Mitt’s choice was in contrast to McCain’s flight of fancy. A Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty will encourage the narrative of Romney as Mr. Generic Middle-of-the-Road GOP in contrast to McCain’s supposed maverickness, which could either be good or bad depending on how much you’ve bought into the idea that simply being a sane Republican with a pulse is enough to unseat President Obama at this point.

I wrote a lot about the art of vice presidential selection for an earlier toon, much of it critical of the overblown media tropes dictating how much influence running mates actually have over the general election, particularly in regards to wooing the presidential candidate’s alienated constituencies. And while I still stand by it, I have to say that a part of me is nevertheless a bit apprehensive about the possibility that Romney will pick a VP as bland as he is — for the very reasons of optical-strategy I was previously so down on.

If conservatism is to survive in America (at least at the hands of the enormous and unruly presidential electorate), it desperately needs to project a face of modernity that transcends that of the stiff, white, middle-aged, male lawyer/businessman/hack politician. Not to say that there’s no worth in being any of those things — stiff, white, middle-aged men are as American as anyone else, after all — but rather that in a youthful, multicultural society voters inevitably read a lot more into such an identity than is probably warranted, and this is simply the reality the modern GOP has to operate within.

The recent wave of idle gossip over Condi Rice’s future seems to be just that — a desperate effort by a bored press to create a buzz over a more interesting politician amid monotonous discussions of more plausible snoozers like John Thune or Pat Toomey. Yet on some level it’s also clear that this media fascination stems from a deeper interest in her as a Republican in particular. Almost everything about Rice — female, black, intellectual, soft-spoken, stylish — seems to contradict traditional stereotypes about the sort of people who vote conservative, and could easily prove to be a tremendous asset with swing voters as a result. A Romney-Rice ticket would suddenly make Mr. Generic Republican seem a bit less generic, and project an image of a party possessing historic relevance and future promise every bit as significant as that of the current president.

Of course, the same things can be said (and were said) about Mrs. Palin, whose youth and womanness were also supposed to modernize the party, yet somehow only emboldened the most hysterically regressive element of it. Indeed, if anything, Palin stands as an excellent case study of how superficial optics and practical electoral consequences do not always run in the same convenient direction. Substantial resume and policy deficiencies can’t be subverted through clever packaging alone, and critical voters are not quite so easily bamboozled by mere demographic novelties. But if the race isn’t likely to be won anyway, you have to wonder if there isn’t some value in at least trying.

From this perspective, whoever Romney eventually does choose may provide considerable insight into just how rosy he envisions his own party’s long-term electoral future. A Portman-type would signal guileless self-assurance that the GOP’s future survival can rest on professional competence alone; a less staid, Rice-type will indicate some manner of partisan insecurity, but also confidence that the problem can be solved.

The only useful verdict will not come until election day, however.


  1. Kyle

    Only one I don't know is Mrs. "too unknown".

  2. George Comney

    Condi's views on abortion have been considerably misrepresented. See wikie. Rice said "If you go back to 2000 when I helped the president in the campaign. I said that I was, in effect, kind of libertarian on this issue. And meaning by that, that I have been concerned about a government role in this issue. I am a strong proponent of parental choice—of parental notification. I am a strong proponent of a ban on late-term abortion. These are all things that I think unite people and I think that that's where we should be. I've called myself at times mildly pro-choice."[94] She would not want the federal government "forcing its views on one side or the other."[95]

    Rice said she believes President Bush "has been in exactly the right place" on abortion, "which is we have to respect the culture of life and we have to try and bring people to have respect for it and make this as rare a circumstance as possible" However, she added that she has been "concerned about a government role" but has "tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund" the procedure.[95]

  3. AddThreeAndFive

    I'm pretty sure that's Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico. I'm not sure who "too crazy" and "too green" are though. And is Tim Pawlenty really "too radical"?

  4. Kento

    "too radical" is Paul Ryan, pretty sure "too green" is Marco Rubio.

  5. CJW

    SPOILER ALERT! My guesses (reversed).

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  6. Zulu

    Marco Rubio "too green"?

  7. Jbot

    I think he means green like a greenhorn, not green like an environmentalist.

  8. Zulu

    Ah, then I completely agree.

  9. Jbot

    Why is Rand Paul too crazy?

    Oh right, his father is Ron and you hate him.

    Carry on.

  10. William

    Rand Paul is crazy at least in the sense that his ideology is really out of step with mainstream swing voters. In a senate hearing he compared government health care to enslaving doctors. He argued that the Civil Rights Act is unconstitutional and specifically if a business wants to discrimate based on race we should wait for "market forces" rather than intervening through government. These sort of issues on which he seems really ideological aren't particularly likely to come up in (and certainly the vp doesn't have much power to effect them), but he is impolitic enough to talk about them anyway.

  11. Colin Minich

    Because the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. And if anything his own personal attitudes might just swing even closer to the absurd notion of libertarianism. He's the opposite of practicality and consideration and I wouldn't be surprised if he too felt the need to completely screw over any and all foreign allies the way Ron Paul would. We could be thirty years in the future and maybe we'll get another Paul calling for the gold standard. It's not hard to dislike the Pauls, so get over it.

  12. Virgil

    In all fairness, I see no grounds to suppose that libertarianism is anything but a respectable method of governing with a very good history to recommend it. I have yet to see anyone explain to me the difference between what Ron Paul is proposing and the government of Prime Minister Gladstone (though perhaps Victoria would agree that such a government was absurd).

    I do not agree with libertarianism. In particular I disagree with its national security notions and I disagree with many of its premises economically. However, Ron and Rand Paul are articulate spokesmen for this view of governance and I see no reason to critique it other than on its merits.

    Regarding particulars: I don't think that it can be denied that taking away the choice of whom a particular doctor takes as a client decreases liberty for the profession, even if the rhetoric is overblown. Similarly, I suspect his argument over the Civil Rights act has a lot to do with its premise on the commerce clause….a matter particularly troublesome in American politics as the recent healthcare case has demonstrated. I personally would be interested to know his views on the Civil Rights Act if premised on the 14th amendment however, since Congress is explicitly granted the authority to enforce civil rights by its terms.

  13. Manguy

    Rand Paul has been as hypocritical and obstructionist as any Republican has been over these past few years.. He slips anti-abortion amendments into flood insurance bills and says he's for smaller government and for a lesser role of the United States foreign policy wise but winds up voting for a bill that basically has the United States subsidize the Israeli military.

  14. A. Apolis

    "Almost everything about Rice — female […] — seems to contradict traditional stereotypes about the sort of people who vote conservative"

    Interesting that the stereotype is that way – I don't doubt that an intelligent man like yourself is aware that females are as a constituency more conservative than males, in the UK at least. Exit polls suggest that removing the female vote as a factor from British general election results since 1945 would in every case result in a win for the Labour party (or the dangerous Leftist commie radical Baader-Meinhof party, as you would know them).

  15. JPPMcCue

    The female vote in The US is a solidly liberal/progressive vote, and has been for decades at least, and if I'm not mistaken it has been since women were given the right to vote.

  16. Jake_Ackers

    Actually not true. Republicans wanted women to vote because of Prohibition and their non-interventionists stance. Before abortion was a federal issue, many women would lean right. After all education and family are all issues of the Republican base.

  17. sds

    Family maybe, but definitely not education. Red states have by far the worst schools and poorest test performances.

  18. Jake_Ackers

    Actually thats only half true. Because it depends more on economic level of the state and its population than political aspect.

    All the border states and deep southern states are horrid followed by the rust belt. But the Midwest and New England do better. http://www.higheredinfo.org/dbrowser/index.php?me

    As I said, education for the Right because that is one of the few legitimate social spending they agree on. Its the Right who has pushed for all the education reform. If you want to change education you will more likely find friends on the Right than you will on the Left. You will be hard pressed to find a Democrat who will take on the teacher's unions and want to change things like tenure.

  19. Etc.

    Does anyone know if there are any studies breaking up the students by economic class and comparing those groups between different states?

    There are obviously many more poor people in the deeper reaches of the South than in New England, and it'd be interesting to see if, say, rich kids in both Alabama and Massachusetts score at similar rates, as might poor children, but the greater portion of poor children residing in Alabama end up torpedoing the scores in general for the state.

  20. Jake_Ackers

    Probably. But I think its the poor kids just drop out and don't go to school in order to work or get involved in gang violence and the sort.

  21. Rabite

    Ron Paul would be a hilarious (and poor) choice. But if there were ever a election I wish there were a viable third party candidate, it would be this election. Obama has tried too hard to get bipartisan agreements with an opponent too stuck on their way or the highway vs that opponent who got too stuck on their way or the highway.

  22. Jake_Ackers

    Romney needs a foreign policy person who will fire up the conservative base. Fred Thompson would be good but he isn't unique. As Fred Thompson though viewed as a conservative is actually a moderate. Rubio shoot himself in the foot with his position on illegal immigration but if he can come back from that then maybe him.

    The candidate that wins is the one who is the most ideologically the same but differ in experience. So Romney needs a moderate who appeals to conservatives. IE: Condi Rice. She is the safest option but also unique. Although I don't know about the Bush aspect. Either way Condi Rice makes race and gender a non-issue especially since its likely Hillary will be on the ticket.

    Alan West is a good choice, fires up the conservative base and has tons of foreign policy experience. Might be too conservative for Mitt though. Kay Bailey Hutchison would be another choice.

    Btw Susana Martinez used to be a Democrat until 1995.

  23. Trenacker

    The leading foreign policy moderates are Condi Rice, who presumably wouldn't accept even if nominated, and Richard Lugar, who would get Romney in hot water with the Tea Party folks.

    If he's looking for youthful dynamism, I suspect that Chris Christie is too uncouth (that temper of his is a huge liability), while Jindal couldn't offer him anything really worth having.

  24. drs

    “Interesting that the stereotype is that way – I don’t doubt that an intelligent man like yourself is aware that females are as a constituency more conservative than males, in the UK at least. Exit polls suggest that removing the female vote as a factor from British general election results since 1945 would in every case result in a win for the Labour party (or the dangerous Leftist commie radical Baader-Meinhof party, as you would know them). ”

    Interesting. In the US, removing female votes would result in Republican victories.

  25. Jake_Ackers

    IIRC, Republicans actually pushed for women to get the right to vote as they were anti-war and Republicans were non-interventionists. Also most states that gave women full suffrage before the 18th Amendment were Republican. In addition to family and education being big Republican issues. Also Prohibition was a huge issue that many tried to get women to support Hoover with. But since abortion was legalized women have largely shifted o the Dems. So I wouldn't be surprised to see women in England be more Tory.

  26. Colin Minich

    Well said. But that was Republican many moons ago…so they haven't a thing to latch on to when it comes to that. It's just history. The Dixie Democrats existed once and now they're all idealistic Republicans. Oh how the winds change…

  27. Trenacker

    Republicans tend to be viewed in the United States as the party of patriarchy. Especially in this election cycle, they have been cast skillfully by liberals as antagonistic to "women's rights." It makes me uncomfortable to refer to abortion and contraception as decisively gendered issues, but for the many women who focus strictly on who has last say about whether or not to end a pregnancy or regulate hormones, socially conservative politicians are little better than thugs. It hasn't helped Republicans, I think, that Sarah Palin is regarded as an air-head by everyone left-of-center, while Michelle Bachmann (and possibly Christine O'Donnell) were seen as abdicating certain decisions to the men in their lives.

  28. Jake_Ackers

    Yah its kind of funny though. The Republicans have been running for many women. Although most of them all crazy. Just Susana Martinez and that Senator from NH seem to be normal.

  29. Colin Minich

    It would have behooved the GOP to silence Michelle Bachmann as much as possible in regards to those things. Aside from her recent, and inane, inquiry into Huma Abedin, she has basically made statements that revert her status to 1940s/50s housewife despite her status breaking that status quo. I was not sure whether she was trolling, misinterpreting, or just completely bonkers in her ideology, but the way the GOP clung on to her words and kept promoting her made it very well seem like the third choice. The GOP has done so very little to give the moderates a voice and instead fervently been hijacked by ideology that has no place in this decade. There are sensible female Republicans and I think Rice was admirably that example in some regards, but they don't get the media…and that's sad…really sad.

  30. Jake_Ackers

    I don't think it was so much the GOP promoting her as it was outside money. I think she just got attention because she was so far out there. The left wing media loves these kind of candidates and the moderate Republicans are more than happy to have her because it allows them to shift to the right without seeming too conservative.

  31. Colin Minich

    But those moderates shouldn't be shifting more to the right. If anything they should be staying as is. The nation was founded on moderation and compromise, not ideological hijacking which is exactly what's going on.

  32. Trenacker

    The United States Congress is, historically and actually, dominated by white males, who are and have been seated far out of proportion to their representation in American society as a whole. With the increasing social liberalization of the Democratic Party during the 1960s and 1970s, and the rise of markedly paternalistic Christian conservatism as a driving force behind the election of Republican lawmakers since the 1980s, it is unsurprising that women tend to be more likely to vote Democrat, all things considered, and that most female and minority lawmakers are Democrats rather than Republicans. However, it is important to consider that, especially in the Northeast where Democratic Party dominance is strongest, some lawmakers who would otherwise be Republicans are forced to run as conservative Democrats if they wish to be elected in their home district or state.

    Minority Republicans stand out precisely because the Republican Party is popularly thought of as the party of old white people, given that it is very intentionally associated with the status quo, which has, and still does, favor white Protestant males. Minorities are more likely than whites to be born into conditions that expose them to the social programming often maligned by Republicans and are more likely to suffer discrimination, which can be expected to increase their support for social "leveling." It is significant that minorities take nearly the same dim view of "handouts" and "government responsibility" as whites, but are more inclined to accept the idea that the playing field is not balanced, starting out.

  33. Jake_Ackers

    Good points. Interesting enough though, before Obama the most prominent minorities in politics were Republican. Even the first federal elected minorities were Republicans. It wasn't until FDR that blacks started to turn toward Dems. Even up until Nixon minorities voted Republican especially with Eisenhower and the Republicans of that era. Who enforced desegregation and passed the Civil Rights Acts. The social programs is what got minorities to vote for Dem as you've said. Even though its minorities who tend to be more socially conservative. In short, US politics is pretty fluid.

  34. Yannick

    Jake- remember that before FDR, the democrats were conservatives and the republicans were liberal (it's the northern, liberal, republican Lincoln who freed the slaves after all).

    What's more fundamental is this – conservative parties tend to favor existing power structures like the army, the church, as well as the current social makeup of the country. They are more likely to be nationalist in an ethno-centric way. For this reason, people who don't fit the mold (non-WASPS, for that matter) are unlikely to vote conservative. This is why blacks have usually voted liberal.

    In Canada, the French have almost exclusively voted liberal during their entire history. There has been only a handful of confounding circumstances in which the French voted conservative, and there has been a single French conservative leader of the party while about half of the liberal leaders have been French – and that one conservative leader was one of the only four conservative candidates that had been elected in that particularly ground-shattering election.

    Likewise, in the US all minorities are more likely to vote democrat, even if their socio-economic status would put them in the republican camp otherwise.

  35. RicardoB

    The idea that a cartoon is worthless if the people can't be recognized without labels falls right into your criticism of the cultured elite isolating themselves. Requiring someone to be significantly familiarized with the topic or characters to appreciate the discussion is going to exclude casual interest and narrow the variety of viewpoints. Brevity obviously has value but this direction requires someone to rifle through images of significant Republicans just to enter the discussion.

    Granted, this post was about breadth of crazy options for VP and the relative likelihood of a dull person being selection but nonetheless I think it's hypocritical for you to value non-description in journalism.

  36. Zulu

    Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul. Am I the only one who confuses these sometimes?

  37. @SideshowJon36

    Ron Paul's the one who looks like a monster from a 1930s horror film

  38. A fan

    I made the mistake of taking a look at those Matt Bors cartoons you mentioned. Oh, the humanity!
    They suck SO much on every possible level. Crass badly drawn propaganda like countless others.
    JJ, You truly mark the difference between a good cartoonists that use cartoons as political editorials to illustrate a talking point, and talentless hacks like those Bors fellow.

  39. Colin Minich

    You think that's bad? You should check out whenever this dude named Andrew Dobson (TomPreston on dA) does any form of political cartoon. Tacky not only in design and talent but wholly unfunny, shamelessly biased, and just plain not insightful.

  40. ljj

    Great caricatures. Your style is so bold and unique.

  41. Iokobos

    As opposed to 'Too Biden'

  42. ajfonty

    The "Too Unknown" is MEG WHITMAN.

    Not exactly someone I'd put in the comic, but it's her all the same.