McCain's VP Choices
Most Republicans aren’t terribly excited about the prospect of a John McCain candidacy, and they look to his Vice Presidential choice to provide a conservative voice in his campaign. Ann Coulter, after a few weeks of slyly hinting that she would vote for Hillary Clinton, announced that she would vote for John McCain on the condition that he selects Mitt Romney for his running mate.
Ann Coulter is an eccentric, hateful nut (sorry, Coulter fans, but it’s true), but many conservatives feel exactly the same way—including me. The McCain campaign knows it must pick a strong running mate to win—the only question is: who might that be?
There are to be several realistic candidates—former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, or Somebody Else.
I realize that I have left out several individuals who many believe have a good chance at the job, such as Charlie Crist, Tom Ridge, or Mike Huckabee. But choosing any these individuals would be a disaster—such a move would rightly be seen as an unforgivable slight to conservatives, and really wouldn’t pick up many more votes for McCain. If McCain wants conservative support, he will have to pick a running mate who has closer ties to the conservative community than he does.
Mitt Romney is considered by many a perfect candidate—he is a strong organizer, so organized that they managed to lose Iowa even with a massive financial edge over Mike Huckabee, he is conservative, so conservative that right-wing magazine Human Events named him one of their top ten RINOs in 2005, and an articulate politician, so articulate that he couldn’t rally enough conservative support to win Florida even though Rush Limbaugh endorsed him shortly before the primary. So maybe he doesn’t have many strengths after all.
Tim Pawlenty is another common suggestion. He is conservative enough, and he is apparently articulate and likable, but…he just doesn’t add much. He hasn’t done much as governor of Minnesota; and that leads to another problem—he is governor of Minnesota, a state that isn’t exactly the first one to spring to mind when conversation turns to important, relevant states.
Sarah Palin is a talented person, and she certainly has a bright political future in the GOP. Her stand on oil drilling deserves admiration—there are few more vocal proponents for drilling in ANWR and offshore. But she has been governor for less than two years, and before that she was mayor of the relatively small city of Wassila. That is simply not enough experience for the office of Vice President. Her time will come—but it is not now.
Bobby Jindal has done a fine job as governor of Louisiana, and seems to have attracted the interest of many prominent conservatives—Rush Limbaugh has called him the “next Reagan”, Michelle Malkin and Katherine Jean Lopez are big fans, and many conservatives bloggers look to him as the party’s next leader. He would insulate McCain from conservative criticism—after all, few conservatives want to attack the “next Reagan.” By all accounts, he is a very articulate man, and his youth might help offset McCain’s age.
The downside is a lack of experience. He has been governor of Louisiana for only seven months, and served in the House of Representatives for three years. He has been in Washington since 2001 (he spent the rest of his time there in the Department of Health and Human Services), which is actually longer than Obama, but his experience is still pretty limited. If something were to happen to a President McCain, it is questionable whether Bobby Jindal would be ready to lead the nation.
Or McCain could pick someone else. Former SEC chairman Chris Cox has been suggested as a possibility, but he is such an obscure figure that it is difficult to imagine many voters getting excited over his nomination. So has former Ohio Representative Rob Portman, who, while conservative, doesn’t spark much a reaction in me. And I think he should, given that I live in Ohio in his former district.
All of McCain’s choices come with disadvantages. My choice, though, is Jindal. He is conservative, articulate, and savvy, and would emphasize the fact that the Republican party is a conservative party. Given the patriarchal nature of GOP, there is a good chance that he would be the party’s nominee in 2012, and it is difficult to imagine a better choice. McCain should nominate Jindal. There are risks in that pick, but the reward more than makes up for them.