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Tipsheet

Veepstakes: Is Bob McDonnell Very Viable or Too Vanilla?

There has been much speculation over the last several days that Mitt Romney -- perhaps for the first time this election cycle -- is seriously considering choosing Wisconsin Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate. As many have argued, an alliterative Romney/Ryan ticket in many ways would indicate that the former Massachusetts governor is patently serious about solving the nation’s finances and budgetary problems, even though it would -- for better or worse -- bring the much-maligned Ryan budget plan to the forefront of the campaign. While some conservatives worry this might unnecessarily ostracize seniors (due to his plan’s unpalatable proposals to reform Medicare) there seems to be another conservative candidate -- equally as compelling and less controversial -- who is also flying above the radar. And that is Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

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In fact, the New York Times' Nate Silver wrote a lengthy article yesterday -- perhaps unwittingly -- explaining why a candidate such as Bob McDonnell might actually be a more judicious choice than Paul Ryan:

Five candidates stood out as having especially strong positive ratings with their home-state voters. These were Mr. McDonnell of Virginia, along with Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and Senator John Thune of South Dakota. The ratings for Mr. Christie and Mr. Rubio were also fairly strong.

Another of Mr. Romney’s potential choices, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, drew more mixed reactions. Although Mr. Ryan should win his home district, pollsters who tested his numbers throughout Wisconsin found more tenuous results, with 38 percent of voters giving him a positive rating and 33 percent a negative one.

It’s easy to see why Mr. McDonnell is so influential. Virginia is not quite as important as Ohio, but it’s still very critical to the election and Mr. McDonnell is quite popular there.

In other words, simply choosing Paul Ryan as the vice presidential Republican nominee will probably not deliver Wisconsin for Republicans, whereas picking, say, Governor Bob McDonnell -- a bona fide conservative and chief executive from a crucially important swing state -- very well could. Indeed, Mr. McDonnell has been an enormously successful public servant who boasts, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, a 52 percent job approval rating. It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Old Dominion’s governor inherited a six billion dollar bi-annual deficit from his predecessor (as Guy explained during a speech at CPAC last February), and turned it into two consecutive budget surpluses without raises taxes. Impressive. If chosen, then, the Republican ticket would include two so-called “reformers” with executive experience and proven track records of turning around struggling and insolvent state governments. What’s not to like? In addition, questions about the vice presidential nominee’s age, experience, ability etc. -- that is to say, questions that would inevitably arise from choosing someone as young and seemingly inexperienced as Paul Ryan -- would be put to rest. And unlike Paul Ryan – who chairs one of the most influential and powerful committees on Capitol Hill -- Mr. McDonnell doesn’t risk losing a significant federal leadership position if Mitt Romney wins in November. (Incidentally, due to Virginia’s stringent term limit laws, the popular governor is barred from serving another gubernatorial term in 2014).

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Of course, this is a fairly limited analysis, but I would further add there are a lot of good candidates out there, including Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio to name a few. (I would be thrilled, by the way, if Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan). But political insiders who have access to Mitt Romney’s running mate preferences aren’t talking -- at least publicly -- and those of us (like me) who aren’t privy to inside information can only speculate. However, as Byron York pointed out in his Wednesday column, “[Mitt] Romney did not get where he is by throwing the dice, and he’s not going to start now.” Which is why, I think, picking someone completely out of left field -- or with baggage -- is exceedingly unlikely. In my view, Bob McDonnell seems like a logical choice.

Whatever happens, though, I’m confident Mitt Romney will make the right decision -- after all, he’s come too far not to.

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