I have written a few articles that are critical of Mitt Romney which some readers have expressed to me privately in person that they are on point. I would like to switch it up and write about what it would take to convince me to vote for Mitt Romney as President since I am still undecided about the Presidential race. My support for Mitt Romney will be dependent on his selection of a Vice Presidential nominee.
The first thing that will pop into readers’ minds is that it will take a solid conservative on the bottom of the ticket to win me over. Perhaps Marco Rubio, John Thune, Bobby Jindal, or Rand Paul would seal the deal?
Contrary to popular notions, that case would not apply to me. I have sprinkled statements throughout my writings identifying myself as a pro-life Democrat who is liberal on quite a bit of social issues and and is a moderate on economic issues who was forced out of the party on one single issue.
Readers will now guess that perhaps a “principled” moderate Republican who does not flip-flop like Romney would seal the deal. The answer is no. A principled moderate Republican is almost always pro-choice like Olympia Snowe and Rudy Guiliani. A principled moderate Democrat can be pro-life like Heath Shuler and Dan Boren. I respect the views of the other side on this very complicated issue that is not as black and white as it seems, but I will support pro-life Democrats with fiscal policies varying from conservative to progressive (Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur? You betcha.) in a heartbeat over 95% of Republicans.
What will encourage me to vote for Mitt Romney?
The answer is a female Vice Presidential candidate. This is a significant, but non-determinative factor. I grew up dreaming to see a woman win the White House in my lifetime. I think leveling the playing field and making history are noble goals while some of my critics will call this cult of personality and identity politics. I do what I do and it is what it is.
I grew up wanting to see Hillary Clinton become President. As much as I liked Bill, I was an even bigger fan of Hillary! I was inspired by Sarah Palin’s run for Vice President and switched my support to John McCain as a result. How is that for independent-minded bipartisanship?
A female Vice Presidential candidate can bring me into the Romney camp. While Romney did put Kerry Healey on his gubernatorial ticket in 2002, I don’t think it is likely that Romney will select a woman to be his running mate in 2012 however, given his past motivations and priorities when selecting a running mate. For the purposes of entertaining discussion, let us deviate from the usual veepstakes discussions and focus solely on the possible female contenders in the veepstakes for the GOP.
Strengths – Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has quietly built a name for herself as a conservative and a champion for the pro-life cause. A farmer by trade with deep farming roots in Eastern Washington, she can rally populist, blue-collar workers who do not relate to Romney’s polished, stainless white collar. As the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, she is an advocate for special needs children. As Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference, she is the highest ranking female Republican in the House of Representatives.
Liabilities – Washington state will vote for President Barack Obama. McMorris Rodgers will not deliver a GOP victory in this state that is not essential to the electoral math.
She is also unknown nationally. Sure, she has made media appearances on all the cable news networks, but so did Governor Sarah Palin from 2007 to 2008. There are quite a bit of parallels between McMorris Rodgers’ life and Palin’s life as they are both young, Pacific Northwest, rugged individualists who didn’t necessarily adhere to the tried-and-true playbook for entering politics. To McMorris Rodgers’ benefit, she would know what to expect after seeing the reaction to Governor Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential run, play it safe, and surround herself with close advisors who know her well.
Chances of being the VP nominee if Romney chooses a woman: Highly likely
Strengths – Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is another solid conservative who can shore up Romney’s credentials. She is from the South so while it is expected that Romney will do well in the South, she can infuse the campaign with cash, volunteers, and the enthusiasm that is pivotal to victory but difficult to quantify.
She is also very attractive and was once named to The Hill newspaper’s “50 Most Beautiful” list of Members, staffers, and Washington insiders published annually during the August recess. Never underestimate the excitement an attractive candidate can generate. Prime examples are John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Sarah Palin.
Liabilities – Blackburn was the primary author of the highly unpopular Stop Online Piracy Act. She does not bring in any new electoral territory for Romney except for an outside chance of shoring up neighboring regions of North Carolina and Virginia. However, western North Carolina and Virginia are already strong Republican territory and don’t have the population to make up for the deficits the GOP will experience in the Triangle and in Northern Virginia.
Chances of being the VP nominee if Romney chooses a woman: Unlikely
Strengths – Governor Susana Martinez is the first female Governor of New Mexico and she is also a Latina. She would make history as the first Hispanic woman on a Presidential ticket. This could help Romney make inroads with Hispanic voters. Hispanics are quickly growing in numbers in America. The GOP will need to regain competitiveness with Hispanics if they want to have long-term relevance. Republican outreach to Hispanics peaked in 2000 with George W. Bush and then fell quickly once Congressional Republicans addressed the illegal immigration issue and came off perceived to have an animus against America’s neighbors to the south.
Liabilities – Governor Susanna Martinez is possibly a descendant of illegal immigrants (definitely so under today’s definition). The thorny issues of immigration would be highlighted at a time when Romney just wants to talk about jobs exclusively. However, partisan Republicans have shown that who you are does not matter as long as you vote the right way. Social conservatives continue to vote for the adulterous Senator David Vitter (R-LA) because he votes for their priorities. Anti-illegal immigration activists will support Martinez because she works for their priorities despite an unclear family past regarding immigration. Unsophisticated, partisan Republicans will also wonder why Martinez was a Democrat until the mid-90s and be suspicious of her conservative bonafides just like they were with Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) during the Presidential primaries.
Chances of being the VP nominee if Romney chooses a woman: Highly likely
Strengths – Governor Jan Brewer has experience as a State Representative, State Senator, Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Arizona Secretary of State, and Arizona Governor. She has served at every level of government and knows how to connect with voters as a public official and get things done as an executive. This will help the oft-perceived aloof Romney, whose only campaigns have been for Governor and President. Both of those kinds of campaigns require a totally different outreach strategy for the candidate himself. One of my colleagues standing next to me observing Mitt Romney in person back in 2009 remarked, “that man looks like he has never knocked on a door [to talk to voters about their concerns] a day in his life.”
Brewer is also a hero among law-and-order Republicans for passing and enforcing laws against illegal immigration. Nothing gets perpetually angry conservatives more fired up than this image.
Liabilities – Governor Brewer had the moxie to break away from the anti-tax crowd that has a stranglehold in today’s GOP and advocate raising sales taxes along with cutting spending to make up for a budget shortfall. Grover Norquist and the Tea Party would collectively explode after hearing such common sense.
Governor Brewer did not win an election to become Governor of Arizona. She was in the line of succession when former Governor Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration.
Additionally, Governor Brewer’s highest educational attainment was an associate’s degree from Glendale Community College. Though for practical purposes, I encourage everyone in this day and age to get bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution, I am never one to look down on a person’s qualifications, intelligence, and wisdom because of the lack of degrees the person holds, a non-traditional path to a degree, or because of the lack of prestige of the fully accredited institution conferring the degree.
However, we saw Governor Sarah Palin mocked by political opponents and the media for attending junior college and transferring to several schools before earning her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Idaho. If people can ridicule Governor Palin for attending junior college and graduating from an accredited state university that is not an exclusive top tier public or private university, imagine what kind of attacks Governor Brewer would face for only having a two year associate’s degree. Never mind that she is the top executive of a state.
Chances of being the VP nominee if Romney chooses a woman: Unlikely
Strengths – Love her or hate her, no one fires up conservatives, working class folks, outside-the-Beltway Republicans, middle America, and Reagan Democrats the way Governor Sarah Palin does.
No one has been more vetted over the years than Sarah Palin and she has weathered through all of these attacks cleanly. After being mishandled by her handlers in 2008 and making some rookie mistakes, Governor Palin has become more polished, at ease in the spotlight, and primetime material for 2012, 2016, and beyond. Palin’s endorsements have infused struggling candidates like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley with donations needed to mount impressive victories. The landscape is full of Republicans from 2010 onward who owe her a debt of gratitude.
Liabilities – No Presidential candidate likes to get overshadowed by the Vice Presidential candidate. Governor Palin will steal the spotlight from the Presidential candidate with no effort. The New York-based media is simultaneously fascinated, perplexed, dumbfounded, and fearful of a successful, attractive career woman who has seemingly rejected certain central aspects of second wave feminism while embracing other aspects and has wholly rejected third wave feminism. Regardless of how Governor Palin built her credentials primarily on economic policy and government reform as an elected official, the media will certainly shift the debate to thorny social issues.
Palin’s star power has decreased with certain segments of the GOP over some of her decisions. Her decision to resign for the Governor’s office to pursue fame and fortune in the media when faced with insurmountable debts from frivolous lawsuits filed against her to cripple her Administration remains a head scratcher among establishment, follow-the-rulebook-to-win-office Republicans. Most recently, she has crossed her Tea Party base by endorsing Orrin Hatch over Tea Party favorite Dan Liljenquist in the Utah U.S. Senate primary. She has actually managed to make everyone unhappy.
One has to wonder how Palin, who built her political career by being a rogue, iconoclastic, rule breaker, can continue to have an unorthodox campaign style based on instinct in a political world that demands disciplined, by-the-book, on-message candidates.
Chances of being the VP nominee if Romney chooses a woman: Nope
Strengths – Governor Nikki Haley, a Tea Party favorite, was an endorser of Mitt Romney. She has risen quickly in politics going from being a State Representative to Governor by defeating more established, powerful opponents like Congressman Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, and Attorney General Henry McMaster.
After garnering the endorsements of Mitt Romney and, quantifiably most significant to her cause, Sarah Palin, Haley’s gubernatorial campaign went from being on life support in last place to front runner status and never looked back. Haley has proven that she can attract the support of Republican from all cultural backgrounds – white collar/blue collar, establishment/anti-establishment, Beltway insiders/outsiders, etc.
Haley can bring a level of excitement and a level of unity that few others can bring. She would make history as the first Indian-American woman on a Presidential ticket. At only 40 years old, she would bring youthful vigor to the campaign.
Liabilities – Political opponents on the right and left have tried for quite some time to prove that Haley has had an extramarital affair. Why this should even matter as a qualification for office is a separate topic altogether, but while nothing has turned up so far, all sorts of crazy things and people come out of the woodwork once a person is within reach of the White House. She might very well be squeaky clean, but campaigns hate to expect the unexpected.
There is not much else here.
Chances of being the VP nominee of Romney chooses a woman: Highly likely
Strengths – Condolezza Rice brings her knowledge of foreign policy to complete the ticket. None of the other female candidates on the rumor mill can match that. As a Governor only, Romney will find candidates who have foreign policy credentials favorable to fill in the gaps. She would make history as the first black woman on a Presidential ticket. She is known to be a sensible pragmatist on other domestic policy issues.
Liabilities – Two words. George Bush.
Chances of being the VP nominee of Romney chooses a woman: Nope
Given Romney’s track record with how he handled ticket mates as a candidate for Massachusetts Governor, Romney will not want a Vice Presidential candidate who will upstage him and steal his thunder. He will want a candidate who will get with the program and deliver what he needs in a safe, unassuming manner.
My prediction is that Romney will pick Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
If Romney suppresses his ego and goes all out – Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.