Mitt Romney’s VP balancing act

Mitt Romney’s general-election campaign has been more aggressive and combative than either President Obama’s campaign or the chattering class ever predicted.

The new confrontational attitude has shown up everywhere — not just in stump speeches or campaign ads but in Romney’s recent embrace of Donald Trump and his boast about sending hecklers to disrupt an Obama campaign event in Massachusetts.

As the political world recalibrates its expectations for what the Romney campaign looks like, it’s time to rethink the philosophy guiding his looming vice-presidential pick.

For months, it was assumed that Romney wanted a “safe” pick who would mirror his predisposition toward political safety and dread of gaffes. Theoretically, that would lead Romney to pick a seasoned running mate who’d make few mistakes and attract few headlines but earn approving nods from political gatekeepers.

A leading incarnation of that archetype seemed to be Sen. Rob Portman — a soft-spoken conservative with impeccable experience and competence who also happened to represent the most important state in the Electoral College: Ohio.

But Romney’s combative first month could hint that he’s looking to another archetype for vice president — the pugilistic warrior who can go one on one with Joe Biden in a shouting match.

The theory goes like this: A vice president is traditionally called upon to deliver the toughest attacks, while the nominee takes the relative high road. But if Romney himself is batting the president around like a piñata, why would he pick someone more discreet, safe and mellow for vice president?

In short, a more aggressive campaign might warrant a more aggressive pick that complements, rather than contradicts, Romney’s confrontational style.

It’s a philosophy that resonates with Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Sabato speculates that the “surprising level of aggression” from Romney could point to a VP pick who plays “like a junkyard dog rather than a

Chihuahua.”

“Any VP nominee will go on the attack, just as directed, but the tendency for the press and public will be to put the VP on the back page or the back burner,” Sabato says. “You can’t ignore a high-wattage [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie or [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio that way.”

With that in mind, the list of likeliest vice presidents might look somewhat different. Bellicosity could be at a premium.

Fighters include names like Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).

At the same time, the quieter and more politic voices begin to fall out of favor — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Portman.

Simply put, on their most combative days, these gentlemen sounds more like genteel leaders of a peacekeeping force than conquering Pattons, and Romney’s approach to the general election, so far, has been all Patton.

That being said, there are some who reject the idea that a newly fanged Romney might mean an even toothier and sharper running mate.

Mark McKinnon, a former presidential strategist and co-founder of No Labels, challenges the notion informing this theory and warns against falling under the deceptive simplicity of a false choice.

“I think Romney will run an aggressive campaign and still pick a safe VP. They can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

That mindset leads McKinnon to pick Portman as the likeliest choice, with Christie “a close second.”

But the name “Chris Christie” is anything but safe and doesn’t exactly evoke a Volvo wagon with hundreds of airbags. In fact, Christie’s popularity almost seems a direct function of his riskiness. Those confrontational YouTube moments of him smacking down his opponents are anything but safe, and seem to be behind much of his national popularity. In fact, without them, he’d probably be just another Republican governor with an effective record — in other words, another McDonnell.

Often, safer candidates are less aggressive, while the aggressive are less safe. That means that both safety and aggression in a running mate could be a very tall order. Romney might, indeed, have to choose between one or the other.

The big question is whether he can find someone who plays as aggressively as he does but who will also emerge unscathed from mistakes or the perpetual spotlight and the media’s insatiable need for blood.

The combination of those two attributes in a candidate — safety and aggression — often seems contradictory, at worst, and elusive at best. Romney’s challenge is to find one who balances both.

Read More at The Hill

Comments

Comments

  1. Jessii says:

    Mitt Romney is so clear and correct in his cotmenms as to what the founders of our Nation intended regarding the religious faith of potential leaders, that it becomes obvious where real bigotry exists. Introducing fundatmental error or as stated the Religion Question into the National Debate is a serious flaw promulgated by the Perry Campaign and will backfire against him. He should bow out now and save the multi-millions of dollars he will spend needlessly trying to destroy Romney and in essence, our Nation’s dwindling hope for salvaging the Constitution being relentlessly destroyed by Obama’s transformation of America into a socialistic state. Last night’s debate left no doubt as to Romney’s ability to answer the numerous attacks, petty as they really are, in a reasoned manner. While we can all realize that small things mean a lot, when contrasting Romney’s miniscule so-called faults against the huge issues facing us for which Romney is eminently qualified to handle, the attacks are infantile and superficial. It is my hope that the harrange and attention on the thin things of virtually no major importance leveled against him will not distract the great body of Americans from realizing he is the most competent and best qualified to confront the thick things of monumental importance our Nation is facing and will continue to face in the immediately near future.

Polititainment

Kimmel: Stoner idea or gov. expenditure?
Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R – Okla.) fifth annual “Wastebook” was released Wednesday and some of the federally funded projects are so outrageous that they can be hard to believe. Late night host Jimmy Kimmel had the same thought and offered his audience a quiz. He read the name of a project, some real and some […]
Obama channels Chris Rock again

At rallies for Democrats in Maryland and Illinois on Sunday, Obama dropped the name "Cousin Pookie" -- a character that he used frequently to energize black voters during his 2008 campaign -- during his speeches.

Oliver beats Supreme Court's camera ban
Comedian John Oliver is sick of the Supreme Court ban on cameras in the court room and the ridiculous ways it makes television news stations have to cover those cases. But all hope is not lost. “What happens at the Supreme Court is way too important not to pay attention to and yet the ban […]
Stewart and Colbert go after 'Fangate'

Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had a field day with “Fangate” Thursday night.

O'Reilly v Stewart on 'white privilege'

Jon Stewart had one goal in bringing Bill O’Reilly on his show Tuesday evening: "I want you to admit that there is such a thing as white privilege."

White House

White House fence jumper charged with assault
WASHINGTON (AP) — The 23-year-old Maryland man who climbed over the White House fence Wednesday night has been charged with felonies for assaulting two police dogs and making threats, the Secret Service said Thursday. Dominic Adesanya of Bel Air, Maryland, is in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for previous outstanding warrants, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. […]
President Obama, unpaid bills and the curious editing of the White House transcript
President Obama, some unpaid bills and a curiously “inaudible” section of the White House recording of a speech — that’s how all good stories start, right? While at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Chicago, Obama cracked a joke about the “unpaid bills” at his home. The joke was reported by the White House Press […]
Secrecy shrouds how the Obamas cook their chicken wings

Now it seems the Obamas are tight-lipped even about their eating habits.

Obama delivers devastating blow to red state Democrats, calls them ‘all folks who vote with me’
President Obama can’t seem to stay out of the 2014 midterm elections, no matter how much his fellow Democrats want him to. Obama spoke on Al Sharpton’s radio show Monday, which was later replayed on MSNBC, insisting that red state Democrats are still his “strong allies.” “A lot of the states that are contested this time […]
Obama reveals his favorite Supreme Court decision

President Obama dished on his favorite Supreme Court decision during his presidency, and it wasn’t either of his interviewer’s top guesses.

Congress

McCarthy speaks out against 'Truthy' study
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is joining the growing dissent against the federally-funded “Truthy” study designed to monitor political speech on social media. In a blog post Thursday, titled “#KillingFreeSpeech,” McCarthy promises that the House Committee on Science will be conducting oversight “in the coming months on this and other questionable government-funded research projects.” “Why does the government […]
CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers to snoop
Despite a number of growing foreign and domestic threats over the summer, the CIA admitted that they had been using their resources to spy on elected officials in the Senate. Now, insiders are alleging that it’s not just what they did that is the problem, but how they went about it. A new piece by the […]
Republicans say they will reform the IRS

Republicans are talking about reforming the IRS if they gain the majority in the Senate next month, but seem to be treading with caution on making any specific promises.

'Wastebook' finds $25B in 'unnecessary' spending
Monkey gambling, synchronized swimming sea monkeys, and mountain lions on treadmills, oh my! Sen. Tom Coburn (R – Okla.) released his fifth and final “Wastebook” Wednesday, chronicling $25 billion tax dollars spent on 100  “silly, unnecessary, and low priority projects” this year. His findings are absolutely astonishing. Coburn, who is retiring this year, is not letting his fellow […]
Dems target Republicans as extremists on ed issues

Democrats this election cycle are working hard to paint their Republican opponents as wild extremists who would slash all funding for student loans.