AFTER SWEEPING TO victory in five presidential primaries this week, the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, will now certainly face Barack Obama in the US presidential election later this year.
The presumptive nominee easily won five primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on Tuesday night and with 14 primaries left to go, he has amassed an unassailable lead in terms of the all-important delegates and will now focus on the general election.
As well as outlining why he is a better fit for the White House than the current incumbent he must also choose his running mate, the man or woman who would be his vice president. The website of the US Senate describes the office as “…the least understood, most ridiculed, and most often ignored constitutional office in the federal government…”.
With only two constitutional duties – to assume the role of president if the incumbent becomes incapacitated and President of the US Senate – there is little set in stone about how a vice president is supposed to operate. For example, the role taken on by the current vice president Joe Biden has so far been more about his gaffes than his predecessor Dick Cheney whose role in the Bush administration led to him being described by some of his critics as Darth Vader.
Then there’s the jokes about the office. For example, have you heard the one about the two brothers? One of them went to sea and the other became vice president.
Neither was heard from again.
But before the jokes, Romney must first pick his candidate and then win the election. A tall order and his selection of a running mate will be crucial (see John McCain and the disastrous Sarah Palin in 2008). Here’s the field from which he is likely to pick and the pros and cons of each candidate.
Who? The governor of New Jersey has been in office for a little over two years but has been making big waves in the Republican Party for taking on the unions and for his straight-talking style. So much so, there was much clamour for him to enter the presidential race but he declined to do so.
Pros: His popularity among many Republicans could quell the unease that many in the party have with Romney, whose famous flip-flopping on issues from abortion to gun rights have left some disillusioned with their nominee. That and his regular-guy persona could make up for Romney’s perceived detachment from ordinary people.
Cons: The inevitable feeling amongst many that it should be Christie who is running for president and not tagging along as Romney’s running mate. The 49-year-old has also repeatedly said that he is not ready for the job of the president. So could he step up to the plate if called upon?
Who? The former governor of Florida and brother of former president George W Bush as well as son to George HW Bush. He became the first Republican in the history of the state to be re-elected as governor and only constitutional limits prevented a third term in office.
Pros: Could be key in an important swing state like Florida and would court the Latino vote (his wife is of Mexican origin). His stance on immigration is fairly moderate too which could be a vote winner.
Cons: There will be many who will feel there has been enough Bush in the White House over the last 20 years. That and the reluctance himself to be considered instead opting for Marco Rubio (see below) as the best candidate.
Who? A Florida senator in office for just over a year after easily winning an election in which the incumbent Republican, Charlie Crist, split the vote ensuring an easy win for the former state legislator. A Tea Party favourite and widely mentioned as a popular choice for Romney on the ticket.
Pros: Young, Hispanic, and a senator in a key swing state. On the face of it Rubio would have it all. That he is a darling of the Tea Party would also stand to his benefit given it is a group which Romney has struggled to appeal to given his moderate credentials.
Cons: Inexperience could work against Rubio when you consider that one of the most important capabilities of the vice president needs to be an ability to step up to the highest office in the land if required. Can Rubio realistically fulfil such criteria with less than two years experience in national office?
Who? Former Pennsylvania senator who recently dropped out of the race for the nomination having run an insurgent campaign in which he leapfrogged the many pretenders to become the only realistic challenge to Romney. A strong social conservative.
Pros: His social conservatism was a sharp contrast to Romney who was perceived to be more liberal on issues of the family and religion (Indeed we don’t talk much about Romney’s Mormonism). He has the experience of the campaign and legislative experience in Washington which Romney doesn’t have.
Cons: His strong views on religion and abortion were one of the main reasons he was not seen as a viable alternative to Romney in the primaries. That and a bruising campaign in which he was at times heavily critical of Romney, and vice-versa, could mean it’s too much of a stretch to have the pair arm-in-arm, campaigning together.
Who? Recently elected governor of South Carolina, the first Indian-American woman to ever hold such a role. A Tea Party favourite who was endorsed by one time VP nominee Sarah Palin in her gubernatorial campaign and was herself an early endorser of Romney.
Pros: A woman, which can attract extra votes from females in this usually male-dominated game. That and her Indian-American heritage could appeal to minorities. She is also, as her early campaign endorsement proves, a solid supporter of Romney.
Cons: A lack of experience having only been in office since January of last year. She is, in fact the youngest governor in the country. Selecting a little known Governor of a small US state was already done in 2008 by John McCain, with disastrous consequences.
Who? The governor of Louisiana who came to prominence following his co-ordination of the response to Hurricane Gustav in 2008, a sharp contrast to Katrina three years earlier. He also gave the Republicans’ response to Obama’s first State of the Union in 2009.
Pros: Like Haley, an Indian-American who could make history and a solid conservative unlike Romney. He could also help in the southern states where Romney’s moderate views may not appeal to some conservative voters.
Cons: That response to the 2009 State of the Union was widely panned and seen as evidence that Jindal is not ready for the national spotlight. He also initially endorsed Texas governor Rick Perry in his fight for the nomination. That may discount him in Romney’s view even though Jindal has since thrown his support behind the nominee.
Who? A congressman from Wisconsin considered to be one of the Republican Party’s most influential voices on economic policy, chairing the House Committee on the Budget. Author of the radical Ryan Plan that proposed to cut spending, slash taxes and make up for it by closing loopholes – a fiscal policy that goes down well with the Tea Party.
Pros: As with others, his strong Tea Party credentials would make him an ideal running mate for the un-Tea Party like Romney. He is a leading voice on the Republicans’ economic strategy and his economic plan has earned praise from Romney. He is also from a key swing state.
Cons: A poster boy for what Barack Obama called “thinly-veiled social Darwinism”, this could potentially work against him such is the radical nature of his economic plan, which proposes to privatise Medicare, a social insurance programme for over 65s.
Who? A junior senator from Ohio who was elected to office in 2010. Considered an expert on budget matters having served as budget director during the most recent Bush administration.
Pros: Ohio is another key swing state (There’s an old saying in American politics: “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation”) and Portman has been a solid supporter of Romney. The two men reportedly get on well and Portman has a wealth of experience in Washington, unlike Romney.
Cons: A virtual unknown whose experience of Washington, while potentially useful, is mostly as a bureaucrat. Also considered a moderate which may not play well to a base of supporters that Romney just can’t crack – the Tea Party.
Who? A former governor of Minnesota who was briefly a candidate for president but dropped out in August of last year after it became clear he could not win the nomination. Was vetted to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008.
Pros: Already vetted and backed Romney as soon as he got out of the race. Considered to be trustworthy and loyal and can appeal to blue collar voters in a way Romney cannot.
Cons: Doesn’t have the kicker of being from a swing state and failed to generate any sort of buzz during his brief and unsuccessful presidential run. This could be down to his perceived lack of charisma.
Who? Governor of Virginia and a former lieutenant colonel in the US Army. He is also currently the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Pros: Governor of a battleground state who is eloquent and looks the part. His military credentials could be useful in a time when America is still mired in the Afghan war.
Cons: Recently mired in controversy over the signing of legislation that requires women to have an ultrasound procedure before they can have abortion in his state. That national controversy aside, he has very little in terms of accomplishments to point to if he were to be picked.
Who? A junior US senator from South Dakota who is considered a rising star in the Republican Party.
Pros: Strong conservative credentials would, like others, bring balance to the ticket. He is a strong supporter of Romeny having backed him prior to the Iowa caucus and has the looks of a future national star.
Cons: Would not offer the kind of benefits others might as his state is a solid Republican one (so much so no Democrat ran against him in his 2010 re-election bid). His inexperience might also count against him.
Who? The governor of New Mexico who took office last year and is the first female Hispanic governor in the US.
Pros: Hispanic and not of Washington (that can either be a pro or a con in some cases). She is a new and different face from an area that the Republicans need to win back after the electoral defeats of 2008.
Cons: She has said repeatedly that she does not want the job. Even if she did become the pick, she is relatively unknown on a national stage and lacking in experience. More likely she will look to 2016 and her own White House bid if Romney is not elected.
Any more for any more?
Other names mentioned include the former George W Bush budget director and current Indiana governor Mitch Daniels but he decided not to run for president outright because of family issues and is unlikely to be swayed by a VP spot. Former governor of Arkansas and a brief insurgent in the 08 race, Mike Huckabee, would be a good pick for the social conservative vote but is lacking in political force and seems more at home with his regular gig on Fox News.
Finally there is Nevada governor Brian Sandoval who is young, Hispanic and from a crucial swing state. But his lower national profile makes him a less attractive pick than Rubio. One to watch in 2016, perhaps.