The RPs Debate the 2012 GOP VP: Jeff Smith Salutes

Jeff Smith’s Response

[Click here to follow the full debate thread]

OK, lots to comment on. I’ll go in order.

Agree with Jonathan et al that, left to his own devices, Romney would pick Portman. Nothing screams competence, or boring white guy, louder. The problem is that Romney’s main thrust will be to run against big government/trillion-dollar deficits, and tapping the GWB OMB guy, as Mark notes, isn’t the best way to drive that message. More importantly, since Romney has amply demonstrated over the last 6 years that he’ll do or say absolutely anything to win, I think he’ll listen when his advisers counsel him that Portman doesn’t bring enough pizzazz or oomph to the ticket. As for Jonathan’s claim that Portman is “beloved by the base,” he’s right if we’re talking about the base, circa-1965. This is not your grandfather’s Republican party. It’s not even your big brother’s.

Agree with Mark that Huckabee would be a great pick and would attract the evangelicals who are approximately as excited about Mitt as they would be about a 20-mile barefoot walk across hot coals to get a colonoscopy. Disagree with Mark that a Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe pick is Mitt’s best chance. I think it’s his best chance to spark a third-party style rebellion on his right flank that he can’t contain which could distract him throughout the fall and cripple his chances.

Agree with John Johnson that Nikki Haley has an intriguing profile. Many Americans will also be intrigued when they read about her past controversies, which you can do by simply Googling “Nikki Haley” and seeing what the first suggestion is. Based on the first-hand, published accounts of a couple prominent South Carolina Republican politicos, her exploits could make another Southern Governor, 1992-era Bill Clinton, look like a piker in comparison.

Agree w/ Ron that Allen West has an interesting profile but the last thing gaffe-plagued Mitt needs right now is a loose cannon. Too much of a wildcard.

Agree w/ Artur that Mitt needs to go long. And Condi Rice is sure intriguing on a lot of levels. Disagree that her open pro-choice stance would be a “mini-furor” that would quickly go away. Since the base doesn’t trust that former Planned Parenthood donor Romney is truly pro-life, I can’t imagine them swallowing a pro-choicer as the #2. I think she creates lingering base problems throughout the fall.

Rubio won’t survive a vetting, I don’t think. Not b/c of the Mormon thing or even the possible contradictions in his family narrative, but b/c of his money-grubbing/sketchiness as FL House Speaker and on the way there. Lots of stories bubbling up from friends of mine who served with him in the Leg down there.

I wouldn’t be so quick to rule out Jindal or Martinez, though Romney will surely vet them far more rigorously than Palin was vetted. Martinez lets him check a lot of boxes and potentially helps in at least three swing states, NM, CO, and FL. I’d be interested to see what the vetting on her turns up, and no doubt so will Romney.

I’ve heard Jindal speak twice and was extremely impressed. Since he’s been in public life basically his whole adulthood w/o a whiff of scandal – he ran Louisiana’s hospital system at age 25 (!) – I actually think he may be able to survive a vetting. That’s one upside of having outsized ambitions from a young age: he seems to have lived a very upstanding life. And Mitt would love Jindal’s Bain-esque discipline and “Mr. Fix-It” style. A guy who competently managed 40 percent of a mid-sized state’s budget at age 25 is a Romney wet dream. Also I think Jindal could energize the base and we know Tea Partiers love to be able to say “Look! I’m not racist!” (See, e.g., Herman Cain/Allen West.) Last, he could tap into an awful lot of presently untapped Indian-American donations.

One downside? Every time Rs say “Barack Hussein Obama”, Dems could say “Piyush Jindal”! One other more serious potential downside is the exorcism story, which might just keep him off the ticket. Since I cannot possible do the story justice, google “bobby jindal exorcism” and try to imagine the viral videos that will result when this thing goes mainstream. Mormonism + exorcism might just be a little too much religious exoticism for one ticket.

Finally, I disagree with Jonathan: I think Huckabee would accept. He wouldn’t have to dial for dollars, which he hates, and would only have to campaign for 3 months instead of the 2 years that an actual presidential run would’ve required. He’s a born showman and he couldn’t resist the national stage of being on the ticket, I don’t think – and it wouldn’t hurt his speaking fees a bit if he lost. If he wins, he’s young enough to be the heir apparent in 2020, in his mind, and we know how the Repubs like to go with the guy whose “turn” it is. Accepting would be Huck’s best chance of ever becoming president. His recent relatively kind words about Romney, a marked change from ’08, seem to suggest an openness to the idea on his part. But the best indication of his possible interest will be his waistline in the next few months. Not easy to write an exhortatory weight-loss book and then return to the nat’l stage 75 lbs overweight.

So I think Jindal or Huck. Both bring a little pizzazz in their own way, complement Romney geographically, and relieve most of his base problems (though Huck will have some Tea Party issues, and Jindal is, well hell, damned if he don’t look like a MUSLIM!! Is that “Rhodes” school he went to some kinda foreign madrassa or sum’n??)

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