Advancing a Free Society

Ryan Says No, Rubio Comes West: Read it and Veep

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Channeling his inner Sherman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan shut the door Monday on a presidential bid with this no-doubt statement:

“I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President."

If you’re disappointed that Ryan won’t be getting star billing on a presidential bumper sticker next fall, fret not: we still have a year’s worth of vice presidential speculation ahead of us. And, barring any further statements, the congressman’s name is certain to figure prominently in the quadrennial tradition called the “veepstakes”.

About that game: to qualify, one to make sense as a ticket-balancer – gender, geography, professional and life experience all coming into play.

Sometimes, the choice comes straight out or left – er, right – field. Ladies and gentlemen: Sarah Palin,hardly anyone’s choice for vice president back when it was John McCain making the call.

Sometimes, conventional wisdom is shoved aside – 1992, for instance, when Bill Clinton went against the grain by “balancing” his ticket with a fellow Southern moderate straight out of the Democratic Leadership Council.

And, sometimes, what makes good sense politically just doesn’t pan out. Then-Sen. John Edwards seemed the perfect addition to the 2004 Democratic ticket. He couldn’t deliver his native North Carolina – nor his home county, for that matter.

A little self-promotion can also come in handy. During the summer of 1988, while Washington wondered whom George H.W. Bush would choose as a running mate, an aide to then-Sen. Dan Quayle had this phone greeting: “Thank you for calling the office of vice-presidential hopeful Dan Quayle.”

This blog not being immune to idle speculation, let’s consider the pluses and minuses of 10 Republicans (listed alphabetically) who might surface in “veepstakes” talk.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Our first name is arguably the one least likely to be giving an acceptance speech on the third night of the Republican National Convention. Arguments for: Christie’s a blue-collar, hefty, Catholic, unapologetic political pugilist – i.e., the anti-Obama; his reform successes (budget, public pensions) are the opposite of Washington’s dithering. Arguments against: weak poll numbers suggest the governor might want to stick closer to home in 2012; he relishes the hand-to-hand combat in Trenton. Would he want to be the next Joe “I wrestle Mongolians” Biden (I love the idea of Biden spending quality time in Ulan Bator; reminds me of old New Jersey “perfect together” tourism spot)?


South Carolina Nikki Haley. She’s more of a possibility if non-southerner Mitt Romney is the nominee, not Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Argument for: Haley is popular among the Tea Party set, who will need considerable convincing to fall in love with a Romney-led ticket – the choice offering a consolation prize of sorts for the skipping-over of Michele Bachman. Argument against: she’s already said the choice should be “somebody who can bring a lot of experience to the table . . . Let’s look at somebody that can do more.” Presumably, that’s not a first-term governor of a small state.


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. First things first: Jindal faces re-election this October (against token opposition); an outcome less settled is an endorsement of his “good neighbor” to the immediate west, Gov. Perry. Argument for: earlier this month, at a Republican National Committee meeting in Tampa, Jindal gave a fire-breathing speech against the debt-ceiling compromise and talked up his job-growth record (RNC attendees even got a copy of his new book). Argument against: Jindal’s latest catchphrase – “it pays to be stubborn” – doesn’t sounds like the words of a running mate who likes to obey orders.


New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Again, more of a Romney pick than a Perry pick (Perry figuring he already has a built-in advantage with Latino voters). Argument for: New Mexico has gone Democratic-Republican-Democratic in the last three presidential elections; Martinez, theoretically, would appeal to Hispanic voters in neighboring Arizona and Colorado and nearby Nevada. Arguments against: is she sufficiently conservative?; would Martinez, elected in November 2010, be willing to renege on a promise to lead her state “for four years”?


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The new chairman of the Republican Governors Association is the head of a commonwealth in which the two political parties are in a dead heat. Arguments for: the rare honest politician who says he’d be “very interested” if asked to join the 2012 ticket, McDonnell maybe gets that wish if he’s the difference in delivering Virginia’s 13 electoral votes (Obama took Virginia in 2008); how many governors can brag about a budget surplus? Argument against: McDonnell’s direct about wanting on the ticket – isn’t being coy the way the game’s played?


Oho Sen. Rob Portman – This is electoral-vote geography that works for both Romney and Perry, as Ohio once again becomes a presidential epicenter. Arguments for: Portman’s no stranger to high-stakes campaigns (he stood in as George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s debate opponents in 2000 and 2004); he knows his state inside-out, winning 82 of 88 counties and 15 of 18 congressional districts in his 18-point Senate win. Argument against: his previous stints in Washington as Bush 43’s Administration’s U.S. trade representative and director of Office of Management and Budget would give Obama an opening to relive the previous regime.


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. If it’s a frontrunner ye seek, here ‘tis. Rubio is young, dynamic, and tonight delivers a much-anticipated speech at the Reagan Library (per Nancy Reagan’s request) that will spark a flurry of “veepstakes” (and 2016) chatter. Argument for: the math is self-explanatory – Florida’s 29 electoral votes; Rubio receiving 57% of the Latino vote in his 2010 Senate victory (compared to 55% for Obama, in Florida, in 2008). Argument against: a cynic believes that something too good to be true is exactly that; until someone finds a way to knock a hole in the senator’s sails, he’ll remain the media’sodds-on favorite for the veep slot.


Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Like Rubio, Ryan has youth (he’s 41; Rubio’s 40), stage presence and a national cheering section going for him, and he represents a state’s that likely in play next fall. Argument for: is there an easier sell than Perry/Romney as the nation’s CEO and Ryan, the House Budget chair, as America’s CFO? Argument against: the moment Ryan accepts the offer, so begins a shameless“Mediscare” campaign to convince seniors that the GOP ticket will lay waste to federal entitlement spending.


Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Like Susana Martinez, a fresh face (elected last fall) in a state the GOP covets. Argument for: the life of Brian seemingly is drama-free – he’s literally sober as a judge, having once served on the federal bench. Arguments against: the economy remains a mess (12.9% unemployment statewide and 14% in Las Vegas in July), which is why Romney chose Nevada for the sitethe Sept. 6 rollout of his economic for plan; for a governor who likes to project the image of newbie with a high ceiling, Sandoval had a bad 2001, the worst of both worlds in 2011, alienating conservatives by raising taxes.


South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Handsome and hip (he held a fundraiser at a Taylor Swift concertearlier this month), Thune’s been part of the “veepstakes” for the past six months, when he opted against a president run, then opened the door to the vice presidency. Argument for: Thune’s a small-town guy who’s friendly and charismatic, as would befit someone who rose to the number-four spot in the Senate leadership in a short period of time. Argument against: in 2008, he voted for the TARP bailout, still a sore subject for some movement conservatives. (By the way, can you name the last South Dakotan on a national ticket?)

So that’s ten names to ponder – not a top-ten, mind you, just ten names that came to mind.

Some notable names are missing – there’s no Republican from the 2008 presidential cycle (Giuliani, Huckabee, Palin). Michele Bachmann (too controversial), Rick Santorum (probably couldn’t deliver Pennsylvania) and Tim Pawlenty (definitely shouldn’t have offended Romney in that Iowa debate) didn’t make the cut.

Also missing: wild-card entries like a David Petraeus or a big name from the private sector.

But remember: the “veepstakes” is a guessing game. And a smart nominee will keep us guessing until the very day of the announcement.

(photo credit: Gage Skidmore)