Nothing works like a baseball analogy to explain U.S. politics in an election year. In a few days, Mitt Romney will use a smart application phone device to announce his running mate. Many are called but only one is chosen.
You can bet Romney has been meticulous, so don’t expect some far-out surprise like Sarah Palin in 2008. Dick Cheney: Where were you when the GOP needed you?
Last week, Cheney inadvertently set the table when he criticized John McCain’s choice of the former Alaska governor. Romney is a much more thoughtful politician than McCain and his choice will be more conventional. He will choose someone competent, compatible and capable of stepping in should circumstances dictate it.
And so to baseball. Although Romney should try for a home run, he’ll probably go for a double.
The Republican candidate’s campaign is strong on money but not much else. If the economy were robust, the race would already be over. As it is, Romney is within the margin of error against Obama with less than 100 days to election day. So the choice of running mate is all important. Romney’s campaign has yet to convey an appealing or compelling personal narrative. By most standards, his recent foreign trip was a failure. On policy, he is nowhere.
The tax-returns issue lingers and will be back when Romney’s would-be veep is asked to divulge his returns. The demand may be questionable, but just four years after the Wall Street debacle, people want to know more about their future president. Right now, Mitt is banking on “it’s the economy, stupid.” But it will take more than, “I’m rich and successful, now trust me.”
Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Condeleeza Rice would be home-run choices for running mate. Each is a personality and, ironically, Americans seem more comfortable with each than they are with Romney. Each is more moderate and mainstream than the average GOPer and would appeal to the political centre while help deliver women and minorities, constituencies the far right has consistently alienated. But, in turn, such candidates could alienate the Tea Party and social conservatives, which explains why Romney won’t go there. And yet any one of the three could be a gamechanger.
Less spectacular names in play include Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire, Marco Rubio from Florida and New Mexico governor Susan Martinez. A more controversial choice would be Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Portman and Pawlenty are the most predictable choices at this writing. Portman could help in a swing state and in the ways of Washington. He could probably hold his own in a debate with VP Joe Biden. Pawlenty is newer, fresher and his recruitment would remind me of when Clinton chose Gore. Compatibility, conformity, and the political calculation of a swing state may be hard to resist.
Ryan’s deficit-cutting plan makes him an interesting choice, but his medicare reform could focus the campaign on issues favorable to the Democrats.
At the end of the day, I’d give the edge to Portman, but he and Pawlenty are more likes doubles than home runs. Of course in baseball you can still score from second base. Play ball!