Consider this either a bonus “2012 Tuesday” or an extra “Poll Position” this week: Who should be Mitt Romney’s running mate?
With almost six weeks to go before the Republican National Convention, this feels too early for the “veepstakes” to be winding down and shortened to three serious candidates. But that’s what Reuters reported yesterday, saying Romney’s short list comprises Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
That means no Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan — bona fide GOP rock stars who would charge up the base but also draw heavy Democratic fire for various reasons.
Here’s a quick pro and con list for each of the three:
JINDAL — Pros: In his second term as governor and has extensive experience for someone so young (he just turned 41); particular knowledge and policy success in the important areas of health care, energy and education reform; strongly identified as a social conservative who could pump up enthusiasm in that part of the Republican base; could attract voters in the fast-growing Asian-American community. Cons: Much-publicized flop in delivering GOP response to President Obama’s 2009 address to Congress is still the No. 1 thing many people know about him; can veer off into the weeds or wonkishness in discussing policy; Louisiana is already a sure thing for Romney in November.
PAWLENTY — Pros: Served two terms as governor; already vetted somewhat by the media due to his own short-lived presidential campaign; personal story appeals strongly to blue-collar workers (credited with coining the phrase “Sam’s Club Republicans”) and critical Midwest swing states; probably the safest pick Romney could make. Cons: His campaign was short-lived in large part because he didn’t connect with GOP voters (we also now know from the way the primary went that he bailed out too soon, before he had a chance to be given the “second look” everyone else got); his record as governor didn’t help Minnesota Republicans build on his electoral success; it’s far from clear Romney could win Minnesota even with him on the ballot.
PORTMAN — Pros: For a first-term senator, he has extensive experience in Washington (12 years in the House, stints as U.S. trade representative and director of Management and Budget) and could be “Mr. Inside” to Romney’s “Mr. Outside”; makes Ohio more winnable for Romney; on a personal note, I dealt with Portman a good bit while he was the U.S. trade representative and always found him one of the more genuinely impressive people in public office. Cons: His experience at USTR and OMB came during the Bush administration and would make it easier for Obama to campaign against George W. Bush (not that he won’t try anyway); just as vanilla as Pawlenty.
Any of the three would be more believable than, say, Joe Biden as someone who could be elevated to the presidency in an emergency. Any of the three strike me as more likely to help Romney’s chances than to hurt them, which is pretty much the whole ballgame. Jindal and Pawlenty strike me as more comfortable than Portman in the “attack dog” role the running mate traditionally fills — although the advent of super PACs and the negative tone we’ve already seen from both sides makes me wonder whether that tradition still holds up very well here in 2012. If picking from this group, and maybe even from the entire veepstakes field, I’m fairly certain I would go with Bobby Jindal.
But what about y’all? What’s your take: Should it be Jindal, Pawlenty, Portman — or someone else? If it’s the latter choice, let us know in the comments thread. In any event, vote in the nearby poll as well.
– By Kyle Wingfield