Sunday, June 3, 2012

Romney's Pick for Vice President? Part I

Yesterday we discussed the manner in which vice presidential nominees are chosen by presidential candidates. Candidates generally look for a VP who will balance the ticket by appealing to another segment of the country (or faction of their political party). Often, a VP is chosen who is perceived to offset or "fill in" a weakness in the presidential candidate. How might Mitt Romney apply these factors to his own choice for VP?

Speculating on Romney's VP selection process has two major difficulties. First, the selection process entails a large degree of "vetting" potential candidates--probing for weaknesses, digging up dirt, etc. Once the VP choice is made, it really can't be un-made. The presidential candidate wants to know everything unappealing about a potential VP before the choice is made. Naturally, all the research that takes place during the vetting process is secret. Political analysts are generally not privy to what is revealed, so they can't have much insight--unless there are no "show stoppers" revealed in the vetting.

The second difficulty inherent in speculation about the VP selection is that it is a task performed solely by the presidential candidate himself. Romney will have many people assisting him, but the choice will be Romney's alone. As we saw last year when various Republicans were deciding whether or not to run for president, it's not always easy to predict what a candidate will do. The voting public behaves in ways that can be measured and analyzed, but the decision of a single person is harder to guess.

Any examination of the VP selection process must admit these major difficulties. A potential VP pick could appear to be perfect in every way, but if skeletons are unearthed during the vetting, he'll be kicked off the list and no one will know about it. Similarly, no one outside Romney's inner circle knows how he really feels about each of the potential VPs. Nor do they know how Romney perceives himself--and therefore, they don't know how Romney thinks he should be "balanced."

The first step every candidate takes in choosing a VP is to draft a list of names. The list is then shortened and shortened again, as the candidate goes about the process of elimination. As we mentioned in the overview of the Intrade market for Republican VP nominee, there is a very large number of potential candidates. Though Rob Portman and Marco Rubio stand above the rest in terms of Intrade odds, there are a lot of people given some percentage of being chosen.

According to the Intrade market, the next names on the list are Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, and Chris Christie. These names should be familiar for readers of Elephant Watcher, since each of them were potential contenders for the presidency. They chose not to run (Pawlenty entered the race but dropped out early).

Daniels can likely be crossed off the list. He chose not to run because of personal/family issues, and those same issues will keep him from being considered for VP. In the same vein, we can eliminate the names of others who could have run but for various reasons chose not to, like Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin.

Christie is a different story. He didn't run in 2012 because it was just a little too early. If he had become governor a year or two earlier, he might well be the Republican presidential nominee. Having spent an additional year as governor of New Jersey, he's less likely to disqualify himself. He won't be cut from the list--not yet.

If a candidate runs and does very well, he may be chosen as VP for the sake of party unity, or because his success showed his strong qualities. Pawlenty's failed run doesn't qualify. If anything, it made him look worse, because voters could have gravitated toward him but didn't.

As for the rest of those who ran in 2012? If the Republican primary revealed anything, it was the weakness of the field. Nearly everyone had serious electability issues. Simply reading the list of candidates can make a Republican wince: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. None of these will be chosen. Jon Huntsman may have been electable, but he ran to the left of Romney and thus cannot be considered.

Even after making all of these cuts, there are still many potential VPs left standing. In Part II, we will take a closer look at how Romney might choose among them.