Veepstakes

April 12, 2012  |  Politics

Here is a guest post from a friend of PunditTracker.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday, bowing to the inevitability of Mitt Romney’s nomination.  The decision came in the wake of three solid wins by the former Bain Capital CEO last week in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Wisconsin.

As the pace of the nominating horse race has lagged, the media has pivoted predictably to what the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza described as “the great process that is the vice presidential sweepstakes.” “It is never too early,” quipped CNN’s Candy Crowley, “for the political world to play Veepstakes.”

On its face, the vice presidential selection storyline is a meritorious one.  Jules Witcover argued in the acclaimed Crapshoot that the first most important decision a president makes comes well before taking office in the choice of a vice presidential nominee.  And so it does.

The party standard bearer, in contemplating a running mate, is weighing two frequently competing imperatives: improving their prospects of electoral success and running the government if elected.  In the last decade, Sarah Palin, John Edwards and Joe Lieberman exemplified the former ambition.  Joe Biden and Dick Cheney represented the latter.

As Romney looks ahead to Tampa, a set of clear general election headwinds loom: weakness with the conservative base; regional challenges in the South; and a Curriculum Vitae ill suited to harnessing prevalent anti-Wall Street sentiment.  His selection may seek to address those gaps.  Alternatively, he may look to buttress a business narrative that has been muted by a bruising GOP nominating process with Senator Santorum.

Over the weekend, conservative commentator George F. Will weighed in on behalf of a selection with “intellectual firepower, born of immersion in policy complexities.”  Will championed two current leaders: WI Congressman Paul Ryan or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Ryan and Jindal, for their part, have been consistent media mentions on the so-called pre-convention “long short list” that includes FL Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and VA Governor Tom McDonnell.  The Post’s Cillizza asserted Sunday that if you pick Rubio, Jindal or Christie, “you have a 33 percent chance of telling all of your friends that you picked the vice presidential nominee months before Romney announced it.”

Amid the selection certitudes from Cillizza and others, however, one can’t help but recall Richard Nixon and the choice of then-Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate in1968.  A stunned press corps responded at the announcement of Agnew with quizzical shouts of “Spiro Who?”  1988 (Quayle), 1996 (Kemp), 2000 (Cheney) and 2008 (Palin) offer similar cause for speculative caution.

But the modern media landscape rewards bold prognostications, largely independent of outcome. The cycle-over-cycle difference is that PunditTracker will be chronicling this Veepstakes, reminding us who gets it right – and who gets it wrong.

Donald Trigg serves as the Chief Revenue Officer for CodeRyte, the leading Natural Language Processing (NLP) supplier in healthcare. He is a veteran of several presidential pursuits, including his work on the 2000 Bush for President campaign in Austin, Texas.

 

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