With Mitt Romney all but universally acknowledged as the GOP certain nominee, attention has quickly and rightly turned to speculation about the former Massachusetts governor’s running mate.
I say “rightly” because not only will the choice greatly impact the election result, it could also profoundly shape American history if that choice were to become the president on short notice.
The latter consideration is what Romney has often said will guide his deliberations, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of Romney’s earnestness accepts this as a given. There are thus three names which have to be at the top of “the list” along with the usual suspects of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Indeed, there are good reasons for the odds-makers to put these three atop the leader board ahead of those four.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is to the 2012 GOP veepstakes what Romney himself was to 2008 competition to be John McCain’s running mate: the obvious, safe and in some important respects, a compelling choice to be the #2.
Pawlenty knows full well what the national campaign feels like and requires. His family is ready for it having embarked upon it once. His wonderful and able spouse would be a great asset to the campaign, and his circle of close advisors and supporters is talent rich and very loyal.
Pawlenty also knows how to win blue states and brings a compelling personal story, deft sense of humor and superb media skills. The nay-sayers chirp that he is dull, but dull may well be the new cool in a year in which the U.S.-as-Greece is on many voters’ minds. Minnesota is a reach, but Pawlenty has cross-border appeal in both Wisconsin and Iowa, key swing states.
And Pawlenty has a solid indeed spectacular eight years of governing under his belt, years that included crises like the collapse of the I-35W bridge and many legislative showdowns, as well as many visits to war zones and a superb record on judicial selection.
Next in line: New Jersey’s Chris Christie. In addition to his obvious flair for campaigning and message management, Christie's issue set is in the zone for 2012: experience with massive deficits and runaway public sector costs, a brass-knuckled willingness to mix it up with the professional left and, often overlooked, a long and very successful tenure as the United States Attorney in New Jersey which would set him up to take on Eric Holder’s abysmal record at DOJ and to anticipate and prep the political battlefield for the election fraud sure to mark the Chicago Gang’s playbook. Christie also has experience prosecuting terrorists and can hold the president to account for his serial pratfalls in this area, and even if New Jersey is thought by many to be out of reach, adding Christie to the ticket instantly stretches the map to the Jersey shore and makes the Romney campaign a very serious player in the Philly media market which helps tilt the already close competition for the Keystone State towards the GOP.
Christie would also be an enormous force in some very specific, key micro-constituencies such as Trumbull and Mahoning counties in Ohio and among the New Jersey ex-pats of Florida.
Like Pawlenty, Christie was with Romney early and all-in. Like Romney and Pawlenty he’s a family man with deep value sets that play across the country. And contrary to what the Green Room elites believe, his girth is a potential connection to ordinary Americans who can look at and listen to Christie and say “regular guy who really gets it.”
Finally, one more hard-to-fathom name for the Manhattan-Beltway media elite: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the man with the alleged radioactive last name, who also happens to have the most popular parents in America, a brother and sister-in-law who have the intense loyalty of tens of millions, an extraordinary record as a very successful two term governor of the most important state to the GOP, and a genuine connection with the emerging Latino electorate that no one else who isn’t himself or herself Latino can claim.
And ready to be president if called upon? Is there anyone else in America more prepared for that job on a minute’s notice?
There are many more names on the VP list, from relative long-shots such as New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to former Romney rivals Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
But these trio of governors with long records of executive experience –and executive success—make the most sense from both a ready-to-be-president perspective and from the campaign manager’s much narrower view as to how to get to 270 electoral votes.