7/04/2008

The Veepstakes: Mitt Romney

The 7-10 wishes everyone a happy and safe Independence Day holiday.

Given the holiday, political news has pretty much come to a standstill. After the holiday, although many people won't be paying attention to politics because of the dog days of summer, the main story will be the selection of vice presidential running mates by John McCain and Barack Obama. This political cease fire affords political observers a rare opportunity to take stock of how various potential running mates are faring, unencumbered by the 24-hour news cycle.

Over the next few weeks, I will assess some of the more popular names being tossed around for vice presidential picks. In my first installment, I will focus on McCain's chief rival from the primaries: Mitt Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor seems to be the most logical and most beneficial pick for John McCain. I was originally skeptical about his political future, but have since become more bullish about his chances.

Romney will not help deliver Massachusetts, but it could make the light blue states of New Jersey and Michigan a bit more likely. The fact that he is Michigan's favorite son and that Michigan's economy is faltering under Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm's leadership makes Michigan perhaps the single best Republican pickup opportunity after New Hampshire. Gov. Granholm's struggles make Romney's business experience an even stronger asset. This street cred Romney has on the economy has the added bonus of potentially putting an end to the nagging questions about McCain's knowledge of economic issues. And given today's fragile economy and rising gas prices, voters outside of Michigan may also respond favorably to Romney's economic message.

But McCain won't be the only person who benefits from this selection. If McCain wins the election, he would likely serve just one term. This would then put Romney next in line to ascend to the presidency in 2012. And if McCain loses the election, Romney's stock value will have increased so much by supporting the Republican nominee and defending conservative values that he should be the frontrunner in the 2012 campaign.

Of course, every rose has its thorns. The Republicans are trying to hammer Barack Obama on changing his positions for political expediency. Framing him as a typical politician may be smart because the more voters doubt Obama, the more comfortable they will feel with McCain. However, adding Mitt Romney to the ticket will make it a lot harder for the Republicans to attack Obama on changing his positions because of Romney's infamous contortions on gay rights and abortion rights. McCain even mocked Romney as the candidate of change in one of the debates.

Also, McCain has a charisma deficit that is only further magnified by Obama's galvanizing speaking ability. Romney would not do anything to offset this, as his inability to connect with voters is partly to blame for his failed run for the nomination.

His great personal wealth could help McCain keep up with Obama's advertising budget, it would also remove another weapon from the GOP arsenal. Having a net worth of over $200 million would only make Republicans look ridiculous as they try to label Barack Obama as an elitist even though he is worth far less. It could also bring back stories of Cindy McCain's net worth, which some estimate at over $100 million. That might take away some of the edge from attacks on Michelle Obama.

In terms of demographics, his Mormonism would undoubtedly help him in the purple state of Nevada, which is right next door to the home base of Mormonism--Utah. But this is a mixed bag because McCain is having trouble solidifying support among the evangelical wing of his base. This is unfair to Romney, but the primaries proved that there is significant resistance to him because of his faith. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee capitalized on this.

Should McCain choose Romney, the Obama campaign may feel more optimistic about evangelicals either staying home or even voting for Obama who is making inroads with the religious community by talking about faith. These voters are not happy about Romney's previous positions on issues important to them, like gay rights, gun rights, and abortion. This would open up North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, and possibly Arkansas (if the Clintons campaign for him there). If Obama snatches North Carolina, that would force McCain to win Iowa and Wisconsin. If Missouri goes blue, that would force McCain to add Minnesota to his column. Money McCain has to spend defending traditional red states like North Carolina is money he is not spending on offense in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Minnesota.

In short, the three main benefits of a Romney selection would be money, Michigan, and economic competence. But he neutralizes several Republican weapons and may potentially do McCain harm by not shoring up his base in the South. McCain could certainly do worse than selecting Romney, but this pick may introduce a bit too many unintended consequences to make McCain comfortable selecting him.

Next post: Hillary Clinton

16 comment(s):

Shimmy said...

Why does Cindy McCain hate motherhood so much?

Thomas said...

I would like to have Mitt Romney back to kick around again.

Brett said...

Did Romney have street cred on economics when he was running? I know that he was praised for his managerial experience (I myself think he did an excellent job saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from the chaos it had run into following the corruption scandal), but what did the polls say, I wonder? I'll have to go digging.

In the meantime, though, I agree with most of your points. Romney may have some trouble with the evangelicals, and did have some; even after it was clear that Huckabee wasn't going to win the nomination by almost any means, evangelicals continued to vote for him over Romney, allowing McCain to build a path to the nomination.

It's weird to think about the political consequences of Romney's religion, since it's not as if Mormons have been excluded from political power; the highest ranking Democrat in public office is a Mormon. Nevertheless, it seems to almost give Romney a kind of "minority" status.

Interestingly enough, I asked an old professor (he retired this year, in his mid-70s; I went to a speech he gave at a retirement celebration - Dan Jones of Dan Jones and Associates polling) about George Romney's run during the 1968 Presidential Election primaries (specifically about whether Romney's religion was an issue). He mentioned that it wasn't; it never even came up. Another downside of the evangelical rise to power in the Republicans,perhaps?

Anthony Palmer said...

Brett,

I think evangelicals are just going to have to deal with Mitt Romney if he's on the ticket much like Hillary supporters will just have to deal with Barack Obama if she's not on the ticket. If your ego is going to cause you to sit the election out even though the stakes are so high, then you deserve to have your party and your ideas lose in the next election.

This whole "Mormon thing" with Romney and the "Muslim thing" with Obama are really making a lot of people wonder why some of us care so much about religion. It would seem that the wall between church and state should become a bit stronger after this campaign, but nobody wants to be seen as "anti-God." Have presidents and presidential aspirants really become pastors in chief as well?

Oh, and the "minority status" comment about Romney is an apt one. But unfortunately, this particular type of "minority" would be more accurately describe as a "cultist" by some Southern Baptists in states that John McCain absolutely needs but shouldn't have to break a sweat over. And that is the downside of a Romney VP nod.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

he did show and prove

Anonymous said...

I find it strange that many conservatives continue to believe that Mitt Romney is really a conservative! Mitt is only playing the part of a conservative in order to get their approval. It's disturbing enough that Mitt used the Massachusetts Governor's office as a stepping stone for his eventual run for the '08 Presidency and that Mitt officially started his '08 Presidential run soon after his second year as Massachusetts Governor. For conservatives, seriously having an actual conservative running for President, instead of having a "Republican In Name Only" Republican pretending to be an actual conservative on all of the issues, will always be a much better choice for conservatives. If McCain REALLY wants to seriously and successfully improve upon his chances for Presidential victory on November 4 among the conservative voters base, then he should seriously choose either Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin, or Mike Pence to be his final VP choice.

Anthony Palmer said...

Anon,

I'm hearing A LOT of people talk about Sarah Palin. I just don't see it happening because she's a first term governor of a very small state. She might be a formidable choice in 2012, but I just can't see it this year.

Mark Sanford adds nothing to the ticket. South Carolina is dominated by Republicans and they override most of his vetoes. He also didn't endorse McCain during the SC primary, so I think Charlie Crist of Florida has a leg up on him there.

Mike Pence would be a solid pick, but I think Pence would like to be House Minority Leader (or Majority Leader) first in order to bolster his profile.

You are right about one thing though. If Romney is not tapped for veep and McCain loses, a whole bunch of more legit conservatives will throw their hats in the ring in 2012 and Romney probably won't get a second look. 2008 really lacked a credible consensus conservative, which is why McCain was able to win the nomination. And that's what kept Romney viable for so long. Romney wouldn't stand a chance against someone like Haley Barbour.

Anonymous said...

I see McCain choosing either a Democrat, such as Joe Lieberman, or a "RINO" Republican as his final VP choice. Charlie Crist is the person who I believe that McCain will eventually pick as his final VP choice, but I do hope that McCain does pick an actual conservative instead for VP. Like it or not, McCain truly needs a majority of conservative voters to vote for him, and if McCain does end up disappointing too many conservative voters, then McCain will probably lose on November 4. It's also truly bad enough that McCain doesn't create any serious and successful "political coattails" in order to help all other Republicans and help all conservatives who are also running for a variety of other political offices at a variety of political levels. In my honest opinion, Florida should be a lock for Republicans anyways, and it wouldn't make any sense for McCain to pick Charlie Crist for VP when Florida is already a "red state" and when Charlie Crist as VP would definitely upset too many conservative voters prior to November 4, because Crist is a "RINO" Republican on too many issues instead of being a solid conservative choice for VP. McCain can't afford to upset too many conservative voters if he seriously wants to win on November 4. During McCain's entire duration as a U.S. Senator, he has "politically back stabbed" too many conservatives on too many issues, and conservatives in general don't like McCain. He truly still has a lot of work to do if he really wants to become the next President of the U.S. I can't stand either McCain or Obama, and I see this country in deep trouble no matter who the next President is.

Thomas said...

I completely agree with Anonymous. Heck, I would be willing to talk conservative too if Republicans would nominate me for President. I know the conservative lingo already - "I am going to cut all your taxes" and "Gay people are the root of all evil in Western Civilization. That would do it, right?

If conservatives really believe Mitt is one of them, they sure are gullible.

DB said...

ROmney would be an interesting choice for the money factor, but is he able to use his own money if they take public financing? I don't see any other reason to go Mitt that can't be found elsewhere.

I was thinking McCain might go hard right with a VP to appeal to the Conservative base. My assumption was they would sit home and not vote for him if he didn't start pandering. But it seems that conservatives are actually so against Obama that they will vote against him rather than for someone. This leaves McCain open to take that middle road candidate as he might already have that base by the shorts and knows a middle run would beat a far-left candidate. A RINO for sure, but I don't think he would test his base with Lieberman.

Freadom said...

I think the idea that a VP candidate helps carry states is over hyped. A VP candidate should be one who shores up a weakness, like Dick Chaney shored up Bush's weakness on defense. Romney would shore up McCain's weakness, which is economic issues. If he wins, McCain woudl surely benefit from Romney's economic prowess.

On another note, even though I'm from Michigan, I'm not hyped about Romney. I did not vote for him in the primary.

Ted said...

Romney adds a net nothing to the ticket; his negatives at least approximate the positives.

McCain NEEDS Alaska Gov Sarah Palin (if he wants to win in November) — whose positives are too numerous to mention here (with no negatives).

– and don’t cite Palin’s lack of experience, since she’s got 10 times that of Obama!!!

Anthony Palmer said...

I'm surprised that the one woman whose name keeps coming up is Sarah Palin of Alaska instead of Carly Fiorina, but I guess that goes to show you how out of touch the punditry is when it comes to knowing what's best for McCain.

I'm not bullish on Palin because I think her staunch pro-life positions would hurt McCain with moderates and independents. Shoring up the base won't be enough for McCain in this election because I don't think the conservative base is as large as it was in 2004. She's also a relative unknown.

A Clinton-Palin VP debate would certainly be interesting to watch, but I don't think we'll ever see such a spectacle.

Carney said...

Anthony Palmer thinks that Haley Barbour would have been a stronger candidate than Mitt Romney.

Barbor is undoubtedly a seasoned Washington insider and a competent executive (as shown by his adroit and energetic handling of Katrina in dramatic contrast to the disastrous buffoonery in NOLA).

However, he is a longtime lobbyist (even was a name partner in his own major lobbying firm); just saying that alone can do devastating damage, let alone all the landmines that surely lurk for oppo researchers to find.

Also note his fat physique and THICK molasses-like drawl (not just a light Southern accent) - not good for the image.

Barbour would be a first-rate Chief of Staff. As a Veep candidate, no chance.

Anonymous said...

NO VP for Romney he is a plastic flip flopper,He invented the word. Reminds me of BO, look at NO VP for Romney.com,There is a petition cirulating. He does not like McCain, if McCain, choose him I will not vote for that ticket. Sorry.....

Anthony Palmer said...

Carney,

Barbour would be more of a defensive pick. He'd probably dash any hopes Obama had of playing in the South, thus shrinking Obama's map to the West and Midwest. However, I don't think Barbour's brand of conservatism will sell well in Pennsylvania and Michigan. I do agree with you that Barbour will likely find a place in a McCain administration even if he's not the VP though.

Thanks for the comment.

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Anonymous,

Wow. Seems like the anti-Romney vote on the right is just like the anti-Obama vote (from the Clintonistas) on the left. Romney would take away some of McCain's attacks on Obama, such as "the candidate of change my mind" because of Romney's "evolution" on the issues. But he does have money and can help McCain play in Pennsylvania and Michigan. So at least in terms of checking off boxes, Romney is good for McCain. But I agree that they don't like each other and this would be a marriage of convenience and utility.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.