Writing in The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes makes the case for Mitt Romney as the safest, most solid choice as John McCain’s running mate.
According to his arguments, the Mittster been thoroughly vetted by the probing press in the course of his presidential campaign, and his strong performance in debates and on the stump highlights his skill as a formidable campaigner. His business background also helps in handling the crucial economic management issues where McCain himself claims little expertise. Finally, and most importantly, his record as a serious presidential contender, an internationally acclaimed Olympics savior, and a successfully governor creates no “stature gap”. No one in press or public would ask “Mitt Who?” with the sort of surprise and bewilderment with which they might respond to the choice of a lesser known sitting governor (Pawlenty, Sanford, Palin, Jindal, even Crist) as McCain’s Veep.
And what about the glaring weakness in Romney’s presidential candidacy that led many of us to cringe at the idea that the former Massachusetts governor would top the ticket? Actually, the same flaw that doomed his drive for the top job might prove a crucial asset if he’s selected as the GOP’s Number Two.
To me (and many others), Romney’s biggest problem as a potential president involved his instincts as a panderer – an eager, palpable, almost panting desire to tell people what they wanted to hear, rather than what they needed to know. His impulses as a people-pleaser led to the reputation for flip-flops – the impression of an infinitely flexible politician with no core convictions other than an unshakable belief in his own competence and suitability for high office.
As a Vice Presidential candidate, this flexibility would help rather than hinder the man from Massachusetts.
A Veep isn’t supposed to display unshakable convictions of his own: he is, rather, expected to reflect and echo the positions and policies of the top guy. For a Vice Presidential nominee, pandering is a good thing, a necessary thing—so long as the prime focus of that pandering is the presidential nominee who selected you.
In view of Mitt Romney’s deft pivots on a wide range of issues as he geared up for his presidential run, there’s little doubt that he can re-adjust once again to back up McCain if he’s given a place on the ticket. They already agree on most of the big issues (conduct of the war, peace through strength, cutting taxes and spending, defending human life, protecting gun rights, and so forth). On other issues where there’s been disagreement between them (campaign finance reform, Guantanamo, immigration reform) Mitt can either agree to back up McCain’s positions or else remain silent.