With John McCain fast approaching the 1191 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination, possibly as early as tomorrow, there is only one remaining question surrounding the Republican ticket for November: who will be VP?
Like the Presidential nominee, the VP is selected by a vote of convention delegates, which technically makes it an open contest, though rarely, if ever, are their serious contenders beyond the man (or woman, as the case may be) put forward by the Presidential nominee. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that no one else has a say in the decision: party insiders, interest groups, and other can all have an effect on who is chosen for the bottom of the ticket.
With McCain, a 71-year-old moderate without executive experience, the general consensus is that McCain needs to pick a Conservative governor or former governor who is relatively young, unquestionably energetic and healthy, who has experience on major domestic issues. There is also an argument that he should pick a woman or minority, but there are not really any who are obvious choices aside from their race or gender – which could heighten the risk of a backlash against a ticket perceived as pandering to a select group.
There has not been any official word on who McCain may pick, but below are many of the names that usually find there way into discussions on this particular topic:
1) Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty – As a relatively Conservative governor in a relatively moderate midwestern state, Pawlenty could potentially unify the party and help in a critical swing region in November, but he may not be the best pick. He is thought to have damaged his chances when two relatively recent decisions he made blew up in his face. He endorsed McCain, but watched as Romney won his state by a large margin – suggesting that he may not have as much pull as previously thought. He also attempted to push some less-than-conservative environmental proposals at the Republican Governor’s Conference, but was shot down. Still, his loyalty to the McCain campaign may not go overlooked.
2) Fmr. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee– Until Mitt Romney dropped out of the Presidential race, Huckabee was largely thought of as a tool of the McCain campaign – draining enough votes to keep Romney from scoring important victories in states like Georgia and Missouri. There was widespread speculation in the media that Huckabee would follow Romney and then be offered the VP spot. But, Huckabee stayed in, and has gone from being a convenience to a thorn in McCain’s side. While Huckabee continues his quest to set himself up for a future run, and possibly a personal goal of getting more delegates than Romney, his chances of VP are probably dropping by the day.
3) South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford– Sanford is a Conservative, and could probably unify the party fairly easily, not to mention being a reasonable choice for the Republican nomination in four years if McCain fails to win or only serves one term (a possibility he has already acknowledged), but as the governor of a very conservative state in a very conservative region, he brings little to the table electorally. He is a respectable choice, though he is probably not at the top of anyone’s list.
4) Fmr. Sec. of State Colin Powell – This is one of those names that seems to go against virtually everything McCain is thought to need in a VP. As a moderate with military experience, he doesn’t bring much to the ticket not already supplied by McCain. As a liberal on issues like abortion and affirmative action, he could turn off conservatives who were already hesitant to support McCain – which could be the kiss of death in a general election. As an elderly man (nearly as old as McCain), he does little to aleve concerns about McCain’s age.
5) Fmr. Sec. of Homeland Security Tom Ridge – Ridge is much like Powell, another moderate who could hurt McCain’s chances with Conservative voters. Although he may have appeal in Pennsylvania, where he served as Governor until 2001, he is unlikely to be a Presidential candidate in 2012 or 2016 – which could hurt his chances if McCain is pressured to pick a candidate who could be the “heir apparent” in either four or eight years. That could be a significant factor – particularly for those who want to avoid another messy primary that resulted in a moderate as the nominee.
6) Fmr. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – Although there is no question about the personal relationship between Romney and McCain (not friendly, to say the least), Romney could still find himself being offered the VP spot. As the second-place candidate in the primaries, he could fill a George H.W. Bush type roll, uniting the party and helping to alleviate concerns about the top man on the ticket. As a Conservative who has already received the support of many major conservative leaders, including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Carl Rove, and others, he could go a long way in unifying the party and balancing the ticket. A recent column by Robert Novak even mentioned that many Conservatives in the part are pushing for a McCain/Romney ticket. But ultimately, unlike the other names mentioned here, Romney might not accept the VP spot, even if it is offered to him. If Romney were to have trouble supporting McCain because of his positions on immigration and the economy, or if he perceived better opportunities were available (such as RNC chairman, or general conservative leader), he may decline the job.
7) Florida Gov. Charlie Crist– Crist is a big McCain supporter, and his endorsement of McCain so close to the Florida primary probably put him over the top and propelled him to the nomination. There is also little doubt that Crist would accept the position if it were offered to him. But, like many of the other potential candidates, there could be some problems. Crist is not as Conservative as some would like, and there are some concerns about his personal life – concerns which could derail either his chances between now and the convention , or worse, the entire ticket if they were to come out during a general campaign.