Thoughts on Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential Pick
Posted at: 07/17/2012 6:07 AM
By: Dr. Timothy Kneeland | WHEC.com
Today, Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report cited a New York Times story and claimed that Tim Pawlenty, the man who coined the phrase “Sam’s Club Republicans,” will be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate. It was only days ago that Drudge, the source for much of what is talked about on conservative talk radio, reported that Romney had placed Condoleezza Rice on the short list for VP. The selection of Rice would be intriguing, but would be fraught with some problems – she has never held elective office, she would hand President Obama a ready-made argument that the GOP was returning to the past practices of the Bush administration, and she is pro-Choice which in and of itself would be recourse for many conservatives to sit out the election. I think the Condi “leak” and the rumors were more about getting Romney free media coverage and perhaps a break from the cycle of newscasts that talk about Bain Capital.
My analysis suggests that Romney, who is very caution (see earlier blog), will select someone he knows well from campaigning for president with the idea that the person would be ready from day one to take office should something ever happen to Romney. Pawlenty fits both of these criteria. Pawlenty has much to offer to Mitt Romney. As an evangelical Protestant and former Catholic Pawlenty could relieve the concerns of the small number of Christians who might still have a problem with Mitt Romney’s Mormon background. When he was Governor of Minnesota Pawlenty faced a $ 4 billion dollar deficit. In response to the budget crisis Pawlenty did not raise taxes but cut spending. Pawlenty’s economic policies as governor would help dispel Romney’s image of being out of touch with middle class Americans. An articulate spokesman for the middle class Pawlenty would be a good surrogate against President Obama’s policies.
Despite these favorable attributes I do not believe that Tim Pawlenty will be chosen as Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate (time will tell). Pawlenty I would argue lowered his political standing in Republican circles with his failed and short-lived run for the GOP presidential nomination last year. Furthermore, he is not a man of much depth having served in the Minnesota state legislature followed by two-terms as Governor. His foreign policy experience is weak. Pawlenty has also changed his position on few key issues that matter to conservative voters such as climate change and health care. I think once these stories emerge it would only make conservative voters more hesitant about Romney who has done the same himself. In the end I would rate Pawlenty is a good but not excellent choice.
I am of the mind that Romney will pick Ohio Senator Rob Portman. Portman is relatively unknown outside of Ohio but is very well known within GOP circles and has an impressive resume of public service. He also has ties to mainstream Protestantism through his background in the Presbyterian Church and his family’s practicing Methodism, granted this is not as strong a set of credentials as Pawlenty.
Portman served George H. W. Bush as his White House Counsel and then Legislative Director which provided him with knowledge of the executive office of the president and strong ties to Congress. When G.H.W. Bush failed to win reelection in 1992 Portman went into the House and served a dozen years winning. He has a record of service and knowledge of the inner workings of Congress which would be useful to Romney. In 2005 Portman left the House to serve President George W. Bush as the U.S. Trade Representative, giving Portman skill in dealing with both economic and foreign policy. He was asked by George W. Bush to head the Office of Management and Budget, giving Portman insights into sometimes convoluted budget process. His background was sufficiently impressive to be placed on the list of potential vice presidential candidates for John McCain in 2008. Finally, in 2010 he was elected to the Senate from Ohio, a very important state for the GOP as no modern Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio! In the Senate Portman voted for the Ryan Budget which is seen by many as the economic doctrine of the Tea Party. Thus, Portman can speak to the Tea Party advocates who are also suspicious of Romney. Overall, Portman would give the Romney campaign real depth in foreign affairs and connections to the House and Senate heretofore lacking in the campaign. If he does not become Romney’s running mate I could see Portman becoming White House Chief of Staff.