When it comes to Mitt Romney’s potential vice presidential running mate, late night TV comedians have offered their own solution. Romney should pick somebody who is smart, likeable and can make strong inroads into women and minority voters: President Obama.
For much of the Republican base, especially the right, jokes like that only compound the nervousness of who is going to join Mitt Romney on the party’s ticket for the presidential election in November.
After having seen “their” candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich lose against moderate Romney in a long and nasty primary fight, the conservatives now hope that Romney picks “one of them”, in order to energise the Tea Party community, evangelicals and social conservatives.
They believe only somebody with strong conservative credentials can add gravitas and fighting power to the ticket to kick Obama out of the White House.
On the other hand, the moderate wing of the party wants a candidate who is more in tune with Romney’s ideas and who has a stronger appeal among independent voters, the ones who will decide the election.
So, who is the best qualified man (or woman) for the job? More than a month before the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, speculation about Romney’s vice presidential running mate has intensified. All week long, political commentators have been wildcatting that Romney might announce his running mate in order to turn the page on a series of bad headlines, but with each passing day that seemed less likely. In fact, Romney will be leaving the campaign trail next week to go on an international trip, and it appears as if the presumptive nominee has yet to make a decision.
Asked about potential running mates at a campaign event in Bowling Green, Ohio on Wednesday, Romney told the crowd: “I can assure you that even though I have not chosen the person who will be my vice president, that person will be a conservative, they will believe in conservative principles.” This news from Romney means the VP announcement will most likely come after Romney’s trip to London and Israel – but it will not stop the speculation.
So far, his campaign has tried to downplay the importance of the date of the announcement. But the search itself has been given major attention. Aides to Romney have poured over video footage of potential running mates, studying hundreds of hours of TV news show appearances, campaign debates and stump speeches for insight into how they handle unwelcome inquiries, even hecklers. No document was left unturned.
With such a thoroughness, Romney’s vice presidential search unit believes they did everything they could to avoid the kind of risky selection of Sarah Palin that ultimately bedevilled Republican candidate John McCain four years ago.
As Romney remains silent on the issue, a hungry national media closely monitors every move of people that appear to be on the VP short list. Suddenly, a minor campaign events appeared on the media radar screen. One example was a visit to Coastal Forest Products in Bow, New Hampshire. That was because New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte was attending the event alongside Romney. Ayotte, a middle-of-the-road Republican from a swing state and a close Romney surrogate, has appeared as a strong possible VP candidate on every pundit’s list.
She is less spectacular, though, than another woman whose name was recently thrown into the debate: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She seems to be the darling of the party’s electorate. In a poll among Republican voters, she garnered 30 percent support, followed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (19 percent), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (8 percent) and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan (8 percent).
But political analysts consider Rice an unlikely pick, given her lack of conservative credentials and her self-described “pro-choice” position on abortion, a litmus test for conservatives. Asked on ABC if he thought choosing Rice as vice presidential pick would be a mistake, former Romney rival Rick Santorum said it would make a Republican victory less likely. An anti-abortion position “is non-negotiable for a vice presidential pick”.
But in opinion polls Rice appears to provide tangible excitement for the hypothetical ticket among voters. Without the former secretary of state, Romney receives 41 percent support compared with 56 percent for President Barack Obama. If Rice were added to the ticket, voters are split 46 percent between Romney-Rice and Obama-Biden.
In addition, Republican support for Romney increased by five points, from 84 percent to 89 percent, with Rice as his running mate.
Whether the choice of a running mate matters at all, is a controversial subject among experts. Latest polls suggest it is as 74 percent of registered voters say that a candidate’s VP choice matters a lot or somewhat. Twenty five percent say it doesn’t matter at all.
Stefan Grobe, euronews Washington correspondent