July 17, 2012 by Ben Crystal
In my remarks last week regarding the 3.5-year sideshow that has been the Vice Presidential tenure of Joe Biden, I mentioned that I would soon be subjecting Bidenâ€™s aspiring replacements to an examination at least as detailed as one of those fancy five-color pie charts USA Today employs to avoid hiring any qualified reporters. I intended to wait a few weeks, but recent word filtering out of the Mitt Romney camp is that the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee plans an announcement soon; so unto the breach goeth I.
In The Second Banana, I pointed out the old trope regarding a running mateâ€™s minimally positive effect on a campaign. If the Presidential candidate doesnâ€™t bring the lumber, his running mate isnâ€™t likely to hit any pinch-hit home runs. However, a strong pick is less likely to weigh Romney down like a political millstone. Biden has enjoyed a free ride from the corporate media. Romneyâ€™s running mate will receive no such charity.
Among the aspirants:
- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: Despite repeated denials that she has any interest in the job, her speech at Romneyâ€™s Park City, Utah, confab says otherwise. Sheâ€™s brilliant; a Rice-Biden debate would be reminiscent of a football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders — even if Biden doesnâ€™t bring his pom-poms. On the downside, she totes hefty neocon baggage; and she will have serious questions to answer about her stance on abortion.
- Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): Heâ€™s young and vibrant, and he could broaden Romneyâ€™s appeal to Hispanic voters. His conservative credentials are excellent. He would boost Romney in Florida, which is as likely as ever to be one of the central battleground States. However, eligibility issues have touched him. The Democrats, incapable of grasping irony, will hammer him for his murky Cuban roots.
- Representative Allen West (R-Fla.): Battle-tested and fearless, Westâ€™s presence would be formidable. Some suggest his lack of experience could work against him, although Obamaâ€™s resume prior to his first Senatorial campaign was thinner than a runway model. Like Rice, West has the temerity to be a Republican despite being black, which will touch off racist attacks from the Democrats that will make their lynching of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas seem like TV night at the senior center. A word of caution about West, by the way: The Heritage Foundation scored him 69 percent.
- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: Heâ€™s tough, even combative. Any conservative has to admire how Christie handled the Garden Stateâ€™s union thug infestation as effectively as the union thugs — ahem — allegedly deal with FBI informants. But even Christie would need a miracle to move New Jersey out of the â€śObama-safeâ€ť column. And his resume beyond New Jersey is a lot thinner than he is.
- Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: His record on taxes is rock solid. He may force Democrats to reveal their racist roots in a highly visible manner. But his 2009 State of the Union response speech was beyond atrocious, raising questions as to whether he can bolster Romneyâ€™s message in a meaningful manner.
- Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.): She hails from New Hampshire, which connects her to Romney; he spends a considerable amount of time there. Unfortunately, despite her Republican label, sheâ€™s no more conservative than Romney.
- Senator John Thune (R-S.D.): I know some observers worry about picking a guy from a politically lightweight State. I would respond by pointing out that Dick Cheney is from Wyoming. In addition, I like South Dakota. However, Thune voted in favor of last yearâ€™s $2.4 trillion debt limit increase and the funding reauthorization of the fiscally useless Export-Import Bank.
- Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio): Heâ€™s telegenic and heâ€™s from Ohio, which will — like Florida — be a key swing State again this year. Among his negatives: Portman represents a great opportunity for Romney to select a running mate even more â€śmoderateâ€ť and white-bread than he is. Also, â€śSenator who?â€ť
I didnâ€™t mention all the players vying for second billing in the next White House reality show. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is probably the most prominent among them. All of them offer something; although in some cases, the something is an unnerving lack of strong conservative credentials. Rumor has it Romney will announce a running mate as soon as this week. Bob Livingston is available; although heâ€™s far too smart for the job.