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The Great American Guessing Game: Who for Vice President?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
When it come to the Republicans' choice for president this year, it's all over but the shoutin' in Tampa.

. .

The great hall, the red-white-and-blue balloons, the signs proudly proclaiming the name of each state from Alabama to Wyoming, the carefully planned spontaneous demonstrations, the whole super-sized hullabaloo ... it should all be set to go by the time the delegates start pouring in to nominate The Next President of the United States! (Applause, cheers and pre-programmed pandemonium.)

Nothing seems to change every four years except maybe the name on the sea of placards that'll cover the convention floor at the designated hour, which should coincide with prime time on the East Coast. Everything should go off without a hitch now that the long slog through the primaries has been concluded.

. .

Oh, yes, there's one small detail to be decided: Who's going to be Mitt Romney's running mate?

At this stage, everybody and his cousin are still on the list of possibilities. What fun. You can pick your own favorite from a wide, not to say unlimited, assortment of candidates. Think of it as an office football pool writ large.

How about a U.S. senator for veep? Among the names frequently floated: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Marco Rubio of Florida, John Thune of South Dakota ... and many more. Insiders say Rob Portman of Ohio has the inside track -- this week -- mainly because he's of Ohio. And that'll be a battleground state this year, maybe the battleground state.

There was a time when the Republican presidential nominee, a Mr. Lincoln from Illinois, had to consider battleground states in the literal sense. By the time he won the election of 1860, the new president would need not just to save the Union but put it back together. "I hope to have God on my side," he is said to have told a friend, "but I must have Kentucky!" Mr. Romney may feel the same way about Ohio this year.

Political junkies picking a candidate for the GOP's No. 2 slot can also choose from a random assortment of governors (Chris Christie of New Jersey, anyone?), former senators (like Rick Santorum, late a presidential candidate himself), former governors (like Jeb Bush of Florida) or just someone from the sprawling category known as Other (Rudy Giuliani of New York, for example, or Donald Trump of Reality TV).

Not to spoil the fun, or introduce a radical idea, but how about choosing a vice president not out of political calculation, but just because he'd make the best vice president?

Mitt Romney's background as a highly successful businessman and governor is well known by now, but success at home cannot be separated from success abroad -- and his record in foreign affairs would seem pretty much a blank. Just as Barack Obama's was four years ago.

Mr. Obama's idea of filling that rather important post was The Hon. Joe Biden, vice president of the United States and national joke. Mr. Romney needs to select a running mate with a record of accomplishment in matters of war and peace that inspires respect, not hoots.

Who would that be? Here's a possibility: the one outstanding general to come out of this country's War on Terror, which our current president can't even call by its right name.

How about the four-star general who designed the Surge, turning the tide in Iraq and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat? Despite all the doomsayers at the time who said it couldn't be done, notably Sens. Obama and Clinton. (It was Hillary Clinton who said it would take a "willing suspension of disbelief" to credit the general's strategy -- a crack she has never apologized for, to my knowledge.)

Having turned the war in Iraq around in short order -- remember how bleak things looked in 2006? -- this same general went on to outline the slow, arduous course it will still take to secure an always restive Afghanistan.

This general wasn't about to acquiesce in a policy that would let Afghanistan's mountainous interior become a terrorist base again -- a course even Barack Obama has come to adopt, however reluctantly and incompletely.

Now retired, the general heads the Central Intelligence Agency, which continues to play an essential role in keeping America -- and the West -- secure.

All of which is why Mr. Romney would do well to choose as his running mate not some senator or governor sure to help him carry a big, battleground state in November -- but just the best choice for the job:

Gen. David H. Petraeus., U.S. Army (Ret.).

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